How EQIP Works in North Dakota
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers through contracts up to a maximum term of ten years in length. These contracts provide financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and for opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland. In addition, a purpose of EQIP is to help producers meet Federal, State, Tribal and local environmental regulations.
Who Can Apply
Owners of land in agricultural or forest production or persons who are engaged in livestock, agricultural or forest production on eligible land and that have a natural resource concern on the land may participate in EQIP.
How EQIP Works
EQIP provides financial assistance payments to eligible producers based on a portion of the average cost associated with practice implementation. Additional payments may be available to help producers develop conservation plans which are required to obtain financial assistance.
Historically underserved producers (limited resource farmers/ranchers, beginning farmers/ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers, Tribes) may be eligible for a higher practice payment rate for the implementation for conservation practices and conservation plans.
Producers may use a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP) for technical assistance needed for certain eligible activities, services and the development of conservation plans. Historically underserved producers may also be eligible for advance payments up to 30 percent of the cost needed to purchase materials or contracting services to begin installation of approved conservation practices.
NRCS works with the producer to develop a plan of operations that:
Identifies the appropriate conservation practice or measures needed to address identified natural resource concerns
Implements conservation practices and activities according to an EQIP plan of operations developed in conjunction with the producer that identifies the appropriate conservation practice or measures needed to address identified natural resource concerns. The practices are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions.
Participants may not receive, directly or indirectly, payments that, in the aggregate, exceed $300,000 for all EQIP contracts entered into during any six-year period. Participants whose projects NRCS determines to have special environmental significance may petition the NRCS Chief for the payment limitation to be waived to a maximum of $450,000. Additional payment limitations apply to producers enrolled in the EQIP Organic Initiative.
EQIP in North Dakota: A Locally-Led Process
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has been designed through a locally-led process. The North Dakota State Technical Committee, consisting of conservation stakeholders across the State, provides NRCS with invaluable recommendations for localizing the program to meet the natural resource needs in North Dakota.
The State Technical Committee helps determine statewide resource concerns, develop application ranking criteria, identify eligible conservation practices, recommend practice payment rates, and suggest funding allocations.
EQIP has been further localized by assigning much of the priority setting at the county or reservation level. The USDA Local Work Group (LWG), with membership consisting of NRCS, FSA, Extension Service and Tribal, State, and local government officials, provide recommendations to the NRCS district conservationist on program implementation at the local level.
Operating within the parameters developed by the NRCS, from recommendations received by the State Technical Committee, the LWG provides grassroots input to the program. This is accomplished in their role of determining local resource concerns, refining application ranking criteria to meet local needs, identifying eligible conservation practices, and recommending practice payment rates.
To accomplish the natural resource goals developed by the LWGs, 62 percent of North Dakota's EQIP allocation will be allocated to the counties. These resource concerns range from ground water quality to plant diversity and wildlife habitat. The remaining allocation has been prioritized to address statewide priorities recommended by the State Technical Committee.
The statewide priority of Animal Feeding Operations ( AFO) will aid in implementing animal waste systems within the State.
The statewide priority of Ground and Surface Water (GSW) will aid in implementing efficient irrigation systems through conversions of existing irrigation systems to a more water efficient system.
The statewide priority of Forestry and Energy will aid in enhancing our forestry and energy conservation resources. The statewide priority of Soil Quality will enhance soil health.
The AFO, GSW, Forestry/Energy, and Soil Quality applications will be ranked at the local level, but will compete for funding with all other applications of their kind.
Since requests for EQIP contracts outweigh available funding, EQIP applicants compete for contracts through a system that ranks the application on how well it will optimize environmental benefits. The optimization is determined by quantifying the extent that local, State, and National EQIP priorities will be met.
Jennifer C. Heglund
Assistant State Conservationist (Programs)