Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
South Carolina FY 2016 EQIP Sign-Up and Application Information
Landowners Encouraged to Apply by November 20, 2015 to be considered for FY 2016 EQIP funding
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat.
2014 Farm Bill: What's New in EQIP?
- The former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program was folded into EQIP
- Advance payment opportunities now exist for veteran agricultural producers.
- Advance payments for socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers, Indian tribes and veterans were raised from 30 percent to 50 percent.
- Payment limitations are set at $450,000 with no ability to waive.
Eligible program participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices, or activities like conservation planning, that address natural resource concerns on their land. Payments are made to participants after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP plan of operations are implemented. Contracts can last up to ten years in duration.
EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application "cut-off" or submission deadline dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. EQIP is open to all eligible agricultural producers and submitted applications may be considered or evaluated in multiple funding pool opportunities. The following document describes how to apply for Farm Bill programs or visit the following website: Get started with NRCS national page
To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted
To apply for EQIP, contact your local service center.
Agricultural producers and owners of non-industrial private forestland and Tribes are eligible to apply for EQIP. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forestland and other farm or ranch lands.
Socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers, Indian tribes and veterans are eligible for an increased payment rate and may receive advance payment of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.
- Control or own eligible land
- Comply with adjusted gross income limitation (AGI) provisions
- Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements.
- Develop an NRCS EQIP plan of operations
Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply.
Applicants are responsible for completing and filing all application and eligibility paperwork as required. If funded, participants are required to sign a contract and agree to implement the planned conservation practices to NRCS standards and specifications as scheduled.
Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning, and Limited Resource Farmers/Ranchers, Military Veteran Farmers
The 2014 Farm Bill continues to address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers and Veteran Farmers. It provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services. Enhancements include increased payment rates and advance payments of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.
South Carolina is committed to reaching out to Historically Underserved individuals and groups. Historically Underserved participants may also receive higher payment rates in addition to being considered in high priority funding pools. See the Small & Limited and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers page for the NRCS definition of the Historically Underserved.
National and State Priorities
The following national priorities, consistent with statutory resources concerns that include soil, water, wildlife, air quality, and related natural resource concerns, may be used in EQIP implementation:
- Reductions of non-point source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with total maximum daily loads (TMDL) where available; the reduction of surface and groundwater contamination; and the reduction of contamination from agricultural sources, such as animal feeding operations
- Conservation of ground and surface water resources
- Reduction of emissions, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and ozone precursors and depleters that contribute to air quality impairment violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards
- Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
- Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
- Energy conservation to help save fuel, improve efficiency of water use, maintain production, and protect soil and water resources by more efficiently using fertilizers and pesticides and
- Biological carbon storage and sequestration
In addition, South Carolina has identified the following priorities:
- Surface and subsurface water quality related to the presence of excessive nutrients and organics related to livestock production by animal feeding operations.
- Plant condition and management to protect/improve pastureland, soil erosion control.
- Wildlife management to protect at risk wildlife species.
How to Apply
Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply, or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.
NRCS will help eligible producers develop an EQIP plan of operations, which will become the basis of the EQIP contract.
EQIP applications will be ranked based on a number of factors, including the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of the proposal.
The EQIP application is based on assistance and decisions reached with producers during the conservation planning process. EQIP applications are prioritized for funding using state, national and locally developed ranking criteria that consider cost-effectiveness, resources to be treated, meeting national EQIP priorities, compliance with federal, state or tribal environmental regulations or reducing the need for future regulations and, to a degree, the location of the contract. Funded EQIP applications result in a contract which lists the practices to be applied along with an application schedule and federal funds committed. Payment rate caps will be used to insure that contract payments are not higher than program rules allow. Conservation practices applied with EQIP funds are to be maintained for the service life of the practice, which may be longer than the term of the EQIP contract. The minimum contract length is the last day of the month of the last scheduled practice. Contracts can now be less than one year, if applicable, and have a maximum contract length of ten years. Implemented practices are subject to NRCS technical standards. Farmers may elect to use NRCS or a Technical Service Provider for EQIP technical assistance. Conservation practices started prior to written contract approval will result in the ineligibility of that practice for EQIP financial assistance.
How EQIP Works in SC
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. This program is available to farmers, and offers financial and technical assistance to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.
Details about signup, eligible practices and cost share rates are announced each year. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) evaluates each application, with higher priorities given to applications that use cost-effective conservation practices, address local priorities and provide the most environmental benefit.
Farmers will work with NRCS to develop a conservation plan, if they don’t already have one, for the acreage affected by the EQIP practices. Conservation practices must meet NRCS technical standards. Farmers may elect to use an approved third-party provider for technical assistance, if available.
The major resource concerns targeted by EQIP in South Carolina are components of the national priorities and measures outlined by the National NRCS Office. Those national concerns are (1) reduction of nonpoint source pollutants, (2) reduction of emissions, (3) reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation, (4) ground and surface water conservation, and (5) promotion of the conservation of at risk species. All EQIP contracts must document an existing resource concern.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), along with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) determine eligible producers for the EQIP program. Any farmer engaged in forestry, livestock or crop production on eligible land may apply for EQIP. EQIP contracts may be for a field, tract, farm or multiple farms. Eligible land includes cropland; rangeland; pasture; private non-industrial forestland; and other farm or ranch lands, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.
Counties will receive EQIP allocations based on ranking scores for applications in statewide funding pools and applications in watershed funding pools. This will be done by the Assistant State Conservationist for Programs in April when the state's funds are received.
Program Payment Limits
EQIP will pay 75 percent payment rates of eligible conservation practices. Historically underserved farmers receive 90 percent payment rates. These payment rates are determined by the National NRCS office on regional scale. South Carolina is included in a region with Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Please reference the current fiscal year Payment Schedule for a list of those rates.
Decision Making Process for EQIP
Input from Outside Groups, Agencies and Citizens:
In South Carolina, the list of eligible practices, maximum payment limits, and application ranking criteria were developed based on input and recommendations from the South Carolina State Technical Committee (SCSTC). The SCSTC is made up of representatives from various agribusinesses, producer groups, conservation organizations and federal, state and tribal government agency representatives.
The SCSTC receives input on factors affecting the program from the Local Work Groups (LWG). The LWG is made up of county agency staff. Landowners may provide advice and information to the LWG as part of the locally led process. Ranking tools developed for each watershed funding pool will prioritize applications based on the resource concerns that each watershed selected. The tool ranks applications on a watershed wide basis, not statewide. There are three (3) funding pools (cropland, pastureland and forestland/wildlife) in each watershed.
Applications for EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis. However, states have a cutoff date for batching and ranking applications as funding allows. The South Carolina cutoff date for FY-2016 is November 20, 2015.
USDA Announces November 20, 2015 EQIP Signup
2016 EQIP Application Materials
2016 EQIP Payment Schedule (PDF; 295 KB)
2016 EQIP Ranking Tools
EQIP Initiatives in South Carolina
1. On-Farm Energy Initiative
2. Organic Initiative
3. National Water Quality Initiative
4. Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative
5. Longleaf Pine Initiative
6. Working Lands for Wildlife – Gopher Tortoise Initiative
EQIP Wildlife Habitat Information
2015 Wildlife Habitat Practice List
Links to Other Useful Documents for the EQIP Program