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Farms across much of Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Wyoming counties and a bit of Orleans County are now eligible for a U.S. Department of Agriculture program aimed at supporting good environmental practices.

The department's Conservation Security Program has added the Tonawanda Creek-Niagara River watershed and the Eighteen Mile Creek watershed to its areas of eligibility.

The program "identifies and rewards those farmers and ranchers who meet the highest standards of conservation and environmental management on their operations," according to the department's Web site.

Annual payments of as much as $45,000 are available to those who meet program criteria. Applications for 2005 are due by May 28. More information is available at the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Web site,

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