Environmental Quality Incentives Program

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program for persons who are engaged in livestock, forestry or agricultural production, including organic production. EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices on eligible agricultural land.

Decisions related to how a crop is produced affect the environment, and vice-versa. The EQIP program provides payments for implementing conservation practices that have a positive environmental impact, while protecting long term agricultural production and sustainability. NRCS professionals work with producers to develop a conservation plan for their operation, design conservation practices, and provide guidance to help implement the plan.

Additional Program Opportunities Description of Initiative and Activity Plan
EQIP- Conservation Activity Plans All Conservation Activity Plans are developed by a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP) to help agricultural producers and forest owners address specific natural resource concerns on their land.
EQIP- Organic Initiative NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers working to achieve organic certification install conservation practices for organic production.
EQIP - 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.
EQIP - National Water Quality Initiative NRCS will help producers implement conservation and management practices through a systems approach to control and trap nutrient and manure runoff. Qualified producers will receive assistance for installing conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips and terraces in the Upper Cohansey River, Upper Salem River, and Upper Alloway Creek Watersheds to address documented phosphorus, bacteria, and sediment impairments which may be caused by soil erosion, exposed soil, and lack of riparian buffers and filter strips.
EQIP - Soil Health Initiative The Soil Health Initiative offers technical and financial assistance to New Jersey agricultural producers to implement multi-species cover crops and companion conservation practices.

What Practices Receive Funding?

With input from the State Technical Committee, NRCS determines the eligible conservation practices used to improve environmental quality both on and off the farm. The resource concerns addressed through EQIP include soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, and animal and plant species of concern. A list of conservation practices was developed to address these resources concerns in New Jersey. Each practice is meant to work in combination with others as part of the total resource management plan on the farm. Implementing conservation practices on your farm may increases your economic flexibility and long term profitability while strengthening your stewardship of natural resources and the environment. Because practices work in concert with one another, practices may address more than one resource concern.

What are the Payment Rates and Terms?

fieldIndividual practice payment rates are calculated between 45% and 75% of the typical cost of labor, materials, and equipment to implement the practice in New Jersey. If the applicant is a beginning farmer, socially disadvantaged or limited resource producer, the rates are 25% higher, up to a maximum of 90% of the typical cost. There is a statutory program payment limitation of $300,000 per applicant during any six-year period.

Projected payments in the approved conservation program contract are based on practice extent and not cost. Payments are made after conservation practices are implemented to the standards agreed to in advance. The conservation practice standard contains information on why and where the practice is applied, and it sets forth the minimum quality criteria that must be met during the application of that practice in order for it to achieve its intended purpose(s).

What is the Contract Period?

Interested applicants can review the program information available on this website and should request a new or updated conservation plan for their farm. An NRCS conservationist will meet with you to evaluate the soil, water, air, plant and animal resources on your property and offer several alternatives to address the resource conditions. The alternatives you decide to use are recorded in your conservation plan which includes a schedule for installation.

A contract offer is developed based on the conservation plan, and is ranked on how well the proposed practices meet national, state, and local environmental objectives, as well as their cost-efficiency. EQIP offers contracts with a maximum term of ten years and a minimum term that ends one year after the implementation of the last scheduled practice.

The contact lists the schedule of installation of planned practices based on the conservation plan. The schedule lists the conservation practice extent (amount), date to be installed, and the pre-determined program payments. The practices are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions. Any deviation from the contract schedule is considered a contract violation unless approved in advance.

Who is Eligible?

installing computer monitoring soil moisture deviceApplicants must have current crop and producer records on file with USDA’s Farm Service Agency. They must own or control the land for the term of the proposed contract, agree to implement specific eligible conservation practices according to the contract schedule, and have an interest in an agricultural operation.

To be eligible for funding for livestock practices, the livestock must have been housed or grazed on land under the operator’s control for at least 12 of the previous 36 months, with an allowance for normal variations in animal numbers.

In order for land to be eligible for an irrigation-related practice in EQIP, including irrigation engines, that land must have been irrigated in two out of the last five years. In addition, Irrigation Water Management must be implemented on all land contracted for an irrigation-related practice for three consecutive years following the practice implementation.

Land is not eligible EQIP if it is currently enrolled in another USDA Farm Bill conservation program such as the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) or the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for the same practice on the same land. Land is also ineligible if it is used for mitigation purposes, or if it is publically owned, unless the publically owned land is part on an eligible landowners operation and is not the only land offered for enrollment in EQIP.

Review the Program Details for additional eligibility requirements.

How Does Signup for EQIP Work?

EQIP applications can be submitted anytime during the year. EQIP has a continuous sign-up with application cut-off dates to rank and prioritize any new or unfunded applications. A signed application can be filed with the local NRCS office at any time. View Current Funding Opportunities for current application periods. A signed application indicates an interest in developing a conservation plan, the first step in the application process.

irrigation in blueberriesEQIP is a competitive program that uses an evaluation and ranking process to assess the needs and cost effectiveness of implementing the conservation plan. Applications are grouped for competitive ranking into "funding pools" with the highest ranked applications in each pool selected for contract development. Funding pools that NRCS has established have been cropland, irrigated cropland, livestock, and forestland.

Contract offers that include practices to address soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, reduced animal waste production and reduced energy consumption are high priority.

More Information

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit

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