USDA has several programs intended to support agricultural producers, but there are some programs are particularly useful to acequia parciantes who are engaged in farming and ranching. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) administers what is probably one of the more well suited programs for acequias. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a cost share program to intended to encourage farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that also improve their ability to produce for market.
Some of these conservation practices include irrigation system improvements, erosion control, pasture management, fencing and stockwater projects, and many others. One of the important initiatives funded through EQIP is the availability of funding for high tunnels, or greenhouses, for extending the length of the growing season.
The New Mexico Acequia Association is strongly encouraging acequia farmers and ranchers to apply for this program by January 16, 2015. The NMAA Farm and Ranch Team is available to meet with individual producers to assist with your application. Call Serafina or Juliet at the NMAA office (505-995-9644) with questions about the application process. They can also connect you with your local USDA Field Office to process your application. These are often co-located with the local office of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
To be eligible for EQIP, you must meet the following qualifications:
•Have planted the land 2 of the last 5 years.
•Have produced $1000 worth in crops or livestock.
•Have a deed or a five year lease.
NMAA staff can help you prepare your application beginning with the sign up process with the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which is a requirement for any USDA programs. The sign up process takes about 45 minutes and can be completed at your local FSA office. A map of local offices is available here. Once your are signed up, you can submit an application for the EQIP program.
Applications should be submitted by January 16, 2015 for the next round of funding. If your application is approved, it will take NRCS two to three months to process your application for you to begin your project. Several NMAA members have been successful in implementing EQIP projects.
Some examples include the following:
•Cross fencing on long lot irrigated properties to support rotation of livestock.
•Pond liners to conserve water. •Subsurface drip irrigation in alfalfa fields to improve irrigation efficiency.
•Acequia headgates on individual farms and ranches to improve irrigation efficiency.
And, of course, there is the Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative. This very popular program has been used by numerous producers to expand their farming operation by extending the growing season and their options for crop production. NRCS will reimburse a significant percentage of the cost of a high tunnel (aka hoop house).
Another important program that is specific to New Mexico is the EQIP Acequia Initiative. Funding is available to provide cost share support to acequias projects such as diversion dams, improvements to the ditch/waterway, flumes, desague repairs, etc. The EQIP program is available to individual landowners but through the Acequia Initiative, acequias parciantes on the same acequia can submit a joint application for an acequia project that benefits all the members of the acequia.
Another organization providing technical assistance on this specific type of application is the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts. NMAA staff can put you in contact with technical assistance providers with NMACD. Call the NMAA at 505-995-9644 for more information about USDA programs. You can also email Serafina Lombardi at firstname.lastname@example.org.