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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications to help producers improve water and air quality, build healthier soil, improve grazing and forest lands, conserve energy, enhance organic operations, and achieve other environmental benefits.NRCS has directed over $13 million in financial assistance for fiscal 2013 to help Ohio producers implement conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the agency’s largest Farm Bill conservation program. Interested producers should visit their local NRCS service center for information on EQIP sign-up periods.“The Environmental Quality Incentives Program offers farmers and forestland managers a variety of options to conserve natural resources while boosting production on their lands,” State Conservationist Terry Cosby said. “This $13 million conservation investment helps improve environmental health and the economy of Ohio’s rural communities.”EQIP provides financial assistance for a variety of conservation activities, such as nutrient management, reduced tillage, field buffers, rotational grazing systems and much more. The deadline for the next signup period in Ohio is January 18, 2013. A second sign-up deadline will occur on February 15, 2013, if funding is available.Additionally, NRCS offers special initiatives through EQIP, including:• On-Farm Energy Initiative: helps producers conserve energy on their operations.• Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative: helps producers install high tunnels designed to extend the growing season into the cold months, increase productivity, keep plants at a steady temperature and conserve water and energy.• Organic Initiative: helps producers to install conservation practices on certified organic operations or those working toward organic certification.• •Air Quality Initiative: helps producers address air quality concerns through establishing conservation practices such as cover crops, windbreaks, nutrient management and other conservation measures that mitigate and prevent air quality problems.To participate in EQIP, an applicant must be an individual, entity or joint operation that meets EQIP eligibility criteria. Applicants can sign up at their local NRCS service center.