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Incentive and cost-share payments are available to orchardists for using practices that conserve natural resources. Through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service offers payments to growers for practices relating to pest, nutrient, and irrigation water management, and for plantings that enhance habitat for beneficial insects and wildlife, for example.

Integrated pest management consultant Naná Simone of Wenatchee,Washington, said growers can apply for an incentive payment of $100 per acre for following recommended integrated pest management practices that include pest monitoring, use of predictive models to time pesticide applications, and use of reduced-risk pesticides. An additional $100 is available to growers who also use mating disruption to control codling moth. The maximum payment per practice per orchard is $24,000.

To qualify for payments for nutrient management, growers will need to take soil and leaf samples to help determine fertilizer needs.

For water management payments, orchardists will need to monitor soil moisture to determine how often and how much to irrigate, Simone said. There are also incentives for upgrading irrigation systems to reduce water use, such as converting from rill or impact systems to microsprinklers or drip. Generally, payments are about 50 percent of cost.

Justin Mount, Chelan County natural resources conservationist, said growers might apply for funding if they need financial assistance to implement progressive management practices or to comply with upcoming regulations.

Contracts

To receive the payments, growers contract with the natural resources conservation services to use the practices. Payments for conservation practices are made annually for the length of the contract, which might be three to five years, or, in the cast of cost-share projects like irrigation system updates, after the project has been completed.

Typically, the conservation service receives more applications than it can fund. Applications are ranked, and growers who use practices to improve more than one type of resource are more likely to be funded.

Mount said growers should contact the Washington State NRCS via its Web site at www.wa.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/FY06/ or call a field office to schedule an appointment to go through the eligibility determination process.

The final date for applications is November 17.