Champaign, IL--The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers through contracts that can span a maximum term length of ten years. These contracts provide financial assistance to help plan and establish conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and offer ways to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland.
According to NRCS there’s a sure fire way to ensure that working with NRCS to create an EQIP contract will work well for all involved. The key is to understand program rules and regulations that are part of this government program. Follow the Top Ten Tips for Making EQIP Work to find benefits for the land and producers’ bottom line.
Interested producers can sign up for EQIP at any time by signing an EQIP application. The application form is available at any local NRCS field office and takes just minutes to fill out. After submitting an application, NRCS will work with clients to develop a plan that defines appropriate conservation practices that are need to address identified natural resource concerns.
While planning an EQIP application, this is an excellent time to interact with NRCS staff and discuss different conservation practice options that address resource concerns and select the best options. During the onsite visit, NRCS staff will evaluate other potential resource concerns and explain how NRCS technical staff can provide ideas, assistance, and program funding.
A submitted EQIP application is not a guarantee of financial assistance to implement all conservation practices. NRCS staff must carefully evaluate each application and all planned conservation practices with a series of questions on a 'checklist.’ With that information, they calculate a ranking score which places applications in line to receive a payment that helps cover most costs associated with each particular practice. Applications that receive the highest ranking score those which offer the greatest environmental impact--are selected first for funding and a contract is developed with each individual.
Each EQIP contract will contain a list and schedule of all practices that must be implemented and the payment rate amounts for each practice. It is important that applicants understand the terms of their contract and agree to those terms by signing the contract. Implementation of any conservation practice(s) on the land can begin only after a contract is finalized after both the producer and NRCS have signed it and the electronic paperwork is filed.
Top Ten Tips for Making EQIP Work
Be actively involved in the development of your conservation plan; it is designed to address your natural resource concerns and goals.
Carefully review the conservation plan created by NRCS staff before signing the contract. Be certain you understand what is required of you and others.
Read the Contract Appendix to fully understand the legal implications of the contract.
Realize your EQIP contract is a legally binding agreement between you, as a participant, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By signing the contract, you agree to perform specific tasks in return for a federal payment(s).
Do NOT start any practice included in your plan until the contract is finalized. The contract is considered final when federal dollars are obligated and assigned to the contract.
You MUST start or apply at least one conservation practice within the first 12 months after your contract is finalized.
Ensure conservation practices are implemented within timeframes established in the contract.
Understand that ALL installed conservation practices must meet NRCS Standards and Specifications. This is ESSENTIAL in order for producers to receive any payment for practice installation.
Maintain ALL funded conservation practice(s) in your plan for their intent and full lifespan.
Inform NRCS field office immediately if circumstances arise that require any change to the contract, plan, or practice implementation schedule.
If EQIP sounds like it offers information and solutions your operation is ready for, contact the county USDA Service Center and get the planning process started. Applications are taken every day. Remember that EQIP payments include landowner costs of taking sections of land out of production for installation of practices that involve earthwork and grading.
For Illinois producers who are ready to get problems solved and get solutions on the ground in short order, EQIP could be the answer. To learn more about EQIP or NRCS products and services, visit www.il.nrcs.usda.gov
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