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EQIP - Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Vegetable fields in the Lower Río Loco Valley.

Program Overview

The Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill.  EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to help them install and implement conservation practices on eligible agricultural land. Through EQIP, farmers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can receive assistance to improve their agricultural production and environmental quality.

EQIP provides financial assistance payments to all eligible producers based on a portion of the typical costs associated with conservation planning and practice implementation.  EQIP activities are carried out according to a conservation plan that NRCS Field Office staff develop with the producer. The conservation plan identifies the conservation practice or practices the producer needs to address resource concerns identified on the farm. EQIP-funded practices must follow NRCS standards and specifications. 

Applications for EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application "cut-off" or submission deadline dates to evaluate and rank eligible applications. To obtain an EQIP application, visit or contact your local NRCS field office, or download this file.

What's New

General Program Information

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 Does It Work?

Payments

2014 Farm Bill legislation provides NRCS with authority to provide financial assistance payments through EQIP to eligible producers, to help implement approved conservation practices on eligible land. 2014 Farm Bill legislation also merged the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) into EQIP and incorporated priorities to assure that EQIP will support wildlife related projects.

Additional financial assistance may be available to help producers develop conservation plans required to support EQIP projects. 

Contour planting reduced tillage - historically-underserved farm - Puerto Rico.Historically Underserved Producers

Historically underserved producers (limited resource farmers/ranchers, beginning farmers/ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers, Tribes and Veterans) may be eligible for increased practice payment rates to support implementation of conservation practices and conservation plans. 

Historically underserved producers are also be eligible for advance payments up to 50 percent of the cost needed to purchase materials or contracting services to begin installation of approved conservation practices. Historically underserved producers can find definitions for each category and additional information here.

Payment and Benefit Limitations

Payments received by producers through EQIP are subject to limitations established by legislative authority, as follows:

Program participants may not receive, directly or indirectly, payments that, in the aggregate, exceed $450,000 for all EQIP contracts entered into during the period 2014 to 2018. Unlike the previous Farm Bill, this maximum payment limitation may not be waived.  Additional payment limitations apply to producers enrolled in the EQIP Organic Initiative.

In additional to payment limitations, the 2014 Farm Bill also established that conservation program benefits are limited to individuals or entities with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $900,000 per year or less. The limit is based on the 3 tax years immediately preceding the year of the original contract obligation.

Conservation Plans

Program applications must be supported by an NRCS-approved conservation plan that provides documentation of the practices that could be used to address natural resource concerns.  NRCS will develop and provide program applicants with an approved a conservation plan.  Producers may also apply for financial assistance to hire Technical Service Providers (TSP) to develop specialty plans called Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs) to address certain land use activities or specific resource needs on your land.

NRCS works with the producer to develop a conservation plan that:

  1. Identifies the appropriate conservation practice or activities needed to address identified natural resource concerns on agricultural lands
     
  2. Helps approved participants implement conservation practices and activities according to an approved EQIP plan of operations.  Developed in conjunction with the producer that identifies the appropriate conservation practice or activities needed to address identified natural resource concerns. Conservation practices installed through EQIP are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions.

Producers may also use NRCS certified Technical Service Providers (TSP) for technical assistance needed for certain eligible activities, services and the development of Conservation Activity Plans.  For more information about TSP services, contact your local NRCS Office or visit the TSP website.

Las inundaciones urbanas en la cuenca del Río Grande de Añasco.Caribbean Area Resource Concerns

  • Protecting and conserving soils to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation.
  • Improving air quality by reducing odors, greenhouse gases (methane and carbon dioxide) from AFOs/CAFOs, and chemical drift; planting trees for carbon sequestration.
  • Reducing energy consumption and improving energy use efficiency.
  • Promoting habitat recovery and protecting threatened/endangered species.
  • Improving grazing & crop land plant & soil condition (reducing compaction, invasive species, contaminants, organic matter depletion and improving plant productivity).
  • Improving water retention, water use efficiency and conserving water resources.
  • Reducing surface & ground water quality impairment from pathogens, pesticides, excessive nutrients & organics, salinity and sediment.

Cutoff Dates

Applications for EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application "cut-off" or submission deadline dates for evaluation and ranking of eligible applications. To obtain an EQIP application, visit or contact your local NRCS field office.

For Fiscal Year 2015, NRCS has established the following cutoff dates:

Period 1 Period 2
  • Application cutoff - November 21, 2014
  • Eligibility evaluation and Ranking - December 19, 2014
  • Selection of Applications for Funding - December 26, 2014
  • Obligation of Contracts - July 1, 2015
  • Application cutoff - January 16, 2015
  • Eligibility evaluation and Ranking - February 13, 2015

National EQIP Initiatives

  • On-Farm Energy Initiative (NOFEI) (EQIP Energía) - The EQIP On-Farm Energy Initiative identifies ways to conserve energy on the farm through an Agricultural Energy Management Plan (AgEMP), conservation activity plan (CAP) or on-farm energy audit, and helps producers implement energy audit recommendations by applying NRCS conservation practices to improve energy efficiency.
  • Organic Initiative (NOI) - The EQIP Organic Initiative helps certified organic producers and producers who are transitioning to organic to install conservation practices on organic agricultural operations. Resource concerns to be addressed include: Soil condition, Soil erosion, Water quality (nutrients, organics, sediment, pathogens and temperature), Water quantity, Domestic animals (inadequate feed, forage, water & shelter), Plant condition, and Fish & wildlife (inadequate cover/shelter, threatened & endangered species).

Caribbean Area EQIP Initiatives

  • Conservation Innovation Grants - Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) is a voluntary program intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches in conjunction with agricultural production.
  • Coral Reef Initiative - NRCS will help producers reduce nonpoint source pollutants (nutrients, sediment, or pesticides) in impaired watersheds, reducing groundwater contamination, and conserving ground and surface water resources. (Comprehensive Nutrient Management and Integrated Pest Management Plans).
  • National Water Quality Initiative - The Water Quality Initiative is a focused approach to help landowners in priority watersheds to apply selected conservation practices to reduce the flow of sediment, nutrients and other pollutants in runoff into impaired waterways.  The priority watershed in the Caribbean Area for FY 2012 and 2013 was the Añasco River Watershed. For FY 2014, the Río Guanajibo Watershed was added to NWQI.
  • South Aquifer Initiative - The South Aquifer Watershed Project in Juana Diaz and Santa Isabel, PR, was initiated in 2005 to address a critical decline of the water table and salt water intrusion into the aquifer. The project aims to protect, preserve and improve the quality and quantity of agricultural resources in the watershed.  It currently includes water management projects in Santa Isabel, Coloso Valley and Guánica.
  • FY 2015 Special Initiatives - Seasonal High Tunnel, Pineapple Specialty Crop, Agroforestry, U.S. Virgin Islands.

How to Apply for Conservation Programs

For someone who has never applied for a USDA program, the conservation application process may seem confusing.  Click on the graphic below to follow the 5 steps to Get Started with NRCS!

5 Steps to Get Started with NRCS!

For More Information

You can also contact your local USDA Service Center or NRCS Field Office or visit the National NRCS website at www.nrcs.usda.gov for more information.

Contact

José A. Castro, Assistant State Conservationist, at 787-766-5206 x. 117