Agricultural producers in the CNMI can benefit from some of the programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service as they have open applications year-round, according to district conservationist Kendal Hicks.
Hicks, who has 16 years of NRCS service under his belt, served as guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting yesterday at Hyatt Regency Saipan.
He said that farmers do not have to wait for a designated time and are encouraged to come to the NRCS office along Beach Road in Garapan “sooner than later” and find out what programs can meet their needs.
Hicks told Rotarians that the primary requirement for those who want to apply for their programs is to show that they have control over the land-be it ownership or lease-for the duration of the program contract.
Most contracts, Hicks noted, span from two to four years.
“If you can show proof of control over the land, you could be eligible. We work with very small farming operations,” he said.
Hicks discussed some of the programs that NRCS administers for eligible farmers in the Commonwealth, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP is a cost share reimbursement program that helps farmers implement conservation practices.
The program, he added, allows the farmers to address agricultural-related issues in partnership with NRCS and other environmental agencies such as the Division of Environmental Quality and the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Another program is the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program or WHIP, a voluntary program for conservation-minded landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on agricultural land. Hicks said he is trying to make WHIP funding once again available for the Commonwealth.
NRCS also has the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, the purpose of which is to undertake emergency measures for runoff retardation and soil erosion prevention, safeguarding lives and property from natural occurrences.
Hicks said NRCS has been active in the islands through other activities such as participation in the annual Environmental Expo where they reach out to the youth and talk about the agency's programs and the importance of sustaining the CNMI's natural resources.
He urged the public to get in touch with any of the staff of NRCS for more information about conservation planning and assistance. Visit the agency located at DY Building next to Naked Fish along Beach Road or call 233-3415.