The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) sign-up is now under way nationwide.

The EQIP program is a voluntary conservation program of the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) that improves both production and environmental quality of farms and properties in Mississippi. EQIP may provide financial assistance to land owners who are willing to implement structural or conservation management practices on eligible properties.

The EQIP program is designed to place emphasis on both agricultural production and the conservation of natural resources of national, state, and county significance.

Applications for the first sign-up are due by January 18, 2013 but are continuously accepted throughout the year.

The 2013 EQIP program includes several new state initiatives designed to address state conservation priorities.

These initiatives include the Specialty Crop Initiative and Livestock Initiative, replacing the Small Farmer Initiative of past years, and a continuation of the Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative.

As in previous years, Neshoba County's top resource concerns will be in Animal Waste, Grazing Land, Sustainable Forestry, and Sedimentation.

Each application will be ranked among other applicants according to the total benefit to Neshoba County natural resources.

Applicants approved for funding will be provided practice specific incentive payments based off of national and regional payment rates.

For further information on the EQIP program or other NRCS conservation programs, please contact NRCS at (601) 656-8783, extension 3.