EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that helps farmers and owners of agricultural land, including forest landowners, reduce pollution and improve natural resources. EQIP provides technical and financial assistance to help people plan, install and implement structural, vegetative and management conservation practices on agricultural land and forest land.
Financial assistance is provided through practice payments based on average costs to implement conservation practices. Payment rates are listed on the annual Practice Payment Rate Schedule. Limited resource Farmers, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers are eligible for higher payment rates.
EQIP contracts can be as short as one year with a one year maintenance period. Most contracts are for work that can be completed within four years. Total financial assistance payments are limited to $300,000 per person or entity over the six-year period from 2009 through 2014, including payments from prior contracts and new payments from the 2008 Farm Bill.
Farmers can sign up for conservation programs throughout the year, but funding selections are made at specific times.
Check back soon for fiscal year 2015 program information.
EQIP State and Local Priorities
Maryland’s EQIP program incorporates environmental priorities as identified at the state and local levels into the selection of what specific program options will be offered, and what factors, questions and screening tools will be used in the application ranking process. Ranking worksheets for each program option include evaluation questions that reflect national, state and local priorities.
2014 Conservation Practices Available for EQIP
- Access Control
- Access Road
- Agrichemical Handling Facility
- Alley Cropping
- Amendment for Treatment of Ag Waste
- Anaerobic Digester
- Animal Mortality Facility
- Aquatic Organism Passage
- Brush Management
- Channel Bed Stabilization
- Composting Facility
- Conservation Cover
- Conservation Crop Rotation
- Constructed Wetland
- Contour Buffer Strips
- Contour Farming
- Contour Orchard and Other Perennial Crops
- Cover Crop
- Critical Area Planting
- Deep Tillage
- Denitrifying Bioreactor
- Drainage Water Management
- Early Successional Habitat Development and Management
- Farmstead Energy Improvement
- Feed Management
- Field Border
- Filter Strip
- Fishpond Management
- Forage and Biomass Planting
- Forage Harvest Management
- Forest Stand Improvement
- Forest Trails and Landings
- Grade Stabilization Structure
- Grassed Waterway
- Heavy Use Area Protection
- Hedgerow Planting
- Herbaceous Weed Control
- Integrated Pest Management
- Irrigation Pipeline
- Irrigation Reservoir
- Irrigation System, Microirrigation
- Irrigation System, Sprinkler
- Irrigation Water Management
- Lined Waterway or Outlet
- Nutrient Management
- Obstruction Removal
- Pond Sealing or Lining, Flexible Membrane
- Prescribed Burning
- Prescribed Grazing
- Pumping Plant
- Residue and Tillage Management, Mulch Till
- Residue and Tillage Management - No-Till/Strip Till/Direct Seed
- Restoration and Management of Rare and Declining Habitats
- Riparian Forest Buffer
- Riparian Herbaceous Cover
- Roof Runoff Structure
- Roofs and Covers
- Seasonal High Tunnel for Crops
- Sediment Basin
- Shallow Water Development and Management
- Solid/Liquid Waste Separation Facility
- Spring Development
- Spoil Spreading
- Stormwater Runoff Control
- Stream Crossing
- Streambank and Shoreline Protection
- Stream Habitat Improvement
- Structure for Water Control
- Subsurface Drain
- Tree and Shrub Establishment
- Tree and Shrub Site Preparation
- Tree Pruning
- Underground Outlet
- Upland Wildlife Habitat Management
- Vegetated Treatment Area
- Waste Facility Closure
- Waste Storage Facility
- Waste Transfer
- Waste Treatment
- Water and Sediment Control Basin
- Water Well
- Water Well Decommissioning
- Watering Facility
- Well Water Testing
- Wetland Creation
- Wetland Enhancement
- Wetland Restoration
- Wetland Wildlife Management
- Windbreak/Shelterbelt Establishment
Maryland EQIP Initiatives
On-Farm Energy Initiative: NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. NRCS then uses audit data to develop energy conservation recommendations. Each AgEMP has a landscape component that assesses equipment and farming processes and a farm headquarters component that assesses power usage and efficiencies in livestock buildings, grain handling operations, and similar facilities to support the farm operation.
Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative: NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels, steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment, and better air quality due to fewer vehicles being needed to transport crops. More than 4,000 high tunnels have been planned and implemented nationwide through this initiative over the past two years.
Organic Initiative: NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers working to achieve organic certification install conservation practices for organic production. New for fiscal year 2012, applicants will be evaluated continuously during the ranking periods. Applications meeting or exceeding a threshold score may be approved for an EQIP contract before the end of the ranking period. Applications rating below the threshold score will be deferred to the next period. A new threshold score will be established at the beginning of each ranking period. This new scoring process allows organic producers to implement conservation practices in a more timely manner.
EQIP Eligibility Requirements
- Applicants must be a farmer engaged in livestock or agricultural production on eligible land, or an owner of agricultural land or non-industrial private forest land. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pasture, private non-industrial forestland, and other farm lands, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.
- Applicants must comply with USDA’s Highly Erodible Land (HEL)/Wetland Conservation provisions. For HEL, erosion must be reduced to minimum acceptable levels by the first year of the contract. Participants also must comply with Adjusted Gross Income provisions (the three-year AGI cannot exceed $1 million, with some exceptions if at least 2/3 of the income is from agricultural production).
- Priority is given to applicants who have a current conservation plan that addresses soil erosion and, if needed, nutrient management. The conservation plan should describe the practices that will be included on the contract and the schedule for implementing the practices.
- Preference is given to applicants who can complete work within 1-3 years.
- EQIP participants receiving funds for animal waste storage, handling, or treatment practices are required to develop and implement a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan
- Participants agree to maintain conservation practices implemented with EQIP financial assistance for the practice life span, which may exceed the length of the contract.
- Conservation Practices must meet or exceed Maryland NRCS standards and specifications.
How to Apply for EQIP
EQIP Applications are accepted by NRCS on a continuous basis, but cut-off dates for evaluating, ranking, and selecting applicants are established each year. 2014 cut-off dates are December 20, 2013 and February 21, 2014 as funding allows.
Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200)
Conservation Program Contract Appendix (NRCS-CPA-1202-CPC)
Evaluation and Ranking
EQIP is a competitive program and uses an evaluation and ranking process to assess needs and cost effectiveness. Ranking occurs after applications are first put through a screening tool and are determined to have at least minimal environmental benefits and meet EQIP program purposes. The review of applications for Fiscal Year 2014 contract requests will begin with applications received by the end of September 2013 and will continue as long as funds are available. Because of the large demand for EQIP assistance, funds are sometimes expended after a few ranking cycles.
Contracts will be awarded to producers with the highest rankings until funds are exhausted. Upon request by the applicant, applications that are not funded in the current fiscal year funding cycle can be retained for consideration in the next federal fiscal year (begins October1).
EQIP Payment Schedules
Check back soon
Forms and Ranking Tools
Check back soon for ranking summaries
Other Useful Douments
NRCS Field Offices, located in the USDA Service Centers in each Maryland county, can provide additional details and program assistance concerning EQIP eligibility requirements, practices, and payments.
Mikel Williams Hawkins
Farm Bill Specialist
Assistant State Conservationist- Programs