DAVIS, Calif., Nov. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- All farmers and ranchers interested in conservation enhancements are encouraged to submit their applications for the 2017 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for financial and technical assistance. Administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), EQIP applications will be screened and ranked on an ongoing basis, with the best projects receiving priority consideration. EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits. These include improved water and air quality, improved irrigation efficiency, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, forest restoration and creating or enhancing wildlife habitat. Each EQIP application must include a conservation plan, co-developed by the landowner and the NRCS conservationist, spelling out the actions that will be undertaken to improve the natural resource condition being addressed and the timeline for doing so. The time needed to complete a conservation plan and process eligibility can vary, from a few weeks to more than a month, depending on the complexity of the farming operation. The first Fiscal Year 2017 batching period for applications in California opens today with funding decisions to be made on Dec. 9, 2016. Two additional batching and funding periods are anticipated in late winter and early summer. In 2016, NRCS California invested over $88 million in California's farm, ranch and non-industrial forestland using the EQIP program. Investments were made primarily in forest restoration, water conservation, water quality, soil and rangeland health, air quality, and wildlife habitat. For additional information, interested farmers and ranchers are encouraged to contact their local NRCS Service Center. Service center locations and more information on the programs can be found at www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov. NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America's private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935.