In fiscal year 2020, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service continued its proud tradition of working in partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in the Caribbean Area (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), despite hardships from earthquakes to COVID-19 to tropical storms.
“Thank you to our team for a great year in dedication to our natural resources and our customers,” said Luis Cruz-Arroyo, NRCS Caribbean Area State conservationist. “I’m extremely proud of all the work that has been done from the front lines with our customers to everything happening behind the scenes.” These are some highlights:
Investments in Planning, Farm Bill Programs and Emergency Conservation Assistance
In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, NRCS and its partners helped land managers invest in their operations through 364 new Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts worth about $8.5 million. This work resulted in the development of conservation plans for 16,827 acres of agricultural land.
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to help install and implement conservation practices on eligible agricultural land. Through EQIP, NRCS helps farmers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to improve agricultural production and environmental quality.
NRCS Caribbean Area also opened a special one-month sign-up from Aug. 18 through Sept. 18 for EQIP equitable relief assistance to help farmers in Puerto Rico repair and rebuild conservation practices installed through NRCS programs that were damaged by Tropical Storm Isaias.
NRCS made three emergency recovery practices available to impacted farmers: obstruction removal, clearing and snagging (of debris in waterways), and fencing. Over 50 farmers applied for emergency assistance.
NRCS has also opened the first sign-up period for fiscal year 2021 Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding to address farmers’ natural resource concerns.
EQIP applications are accepted year-round; however, NRCS sets application “cut-off” or submission deadlines to evaluate, rank and approve eligible applications. The Period 1 cut-off date for fiscal year 2021 is Oct. 30, 2020.
For information on NRCS programs and services in the Caribbean Area visit www.pr.nrcs.usda.gov or contact a local USDA-NRCS office.