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Vermont EQIP Information Overview

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program that provides assistance to landowners and agricultural producers in a manner that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. Through EQIP, farmers and ranchers receive financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices that optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural land. EQIP is re-authorized through the 2008 Farm Bill.

With EQIP, NRCS provides funding and expertise for measures to protect natural resources while ensuring sustainable production on farms, ranches and working forest lands.

2014 EQIP Signup Opportunities in Vermont

For the person who has never applied for a federal agricultural program, the conservation application process may seem confusing.  The information provided on this page and on other pages within this website are to provide a roadmap for those new to federal conservation programs.  To get started, visit the Applying for Conservation Programs.

Important Information for the 2014 Energy Initiative:
Beginning in Fiscal Year 2014 the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will no longer fund applicants requesting to upgrade an existing maple syrup reverse osmosis unit (R/O) through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Instead, NRCS will focus solely on funding energy audits through Technical Service Providers and assisting producers to adopt the reverse osmosis technology in situations where it has never been installed before.
Fortunately, USDA Rural Development will offer reverse osmosis upgrades through their Rural Energy for America Program. While the rules and rates between the two programs are different, an NRCS compliant energy audit is sufficient to apply for the USDA Rural Development program. Please refer to the 2014 Reverse Osmosis Unit Fact Sheet for additional details on this program.

A special sign up for nutrient management and cover cropping may be available this year! Last Day to sign up for Nutrient Management Plans and Cover Cropping would be April 17. Just in case, sign up at your local office as soon as possible!

Program

Description

Application Cutoff Date

Additional Documents

Regular EQIP

EQIP applications may be submitted at any time with your local USDA Service Center. For more information, see 2014 Regular EQIP Funding Pool Descriptions below.

April 17, 2014

Practices Available;
Practices and Payment Amounts;
Farmstead Pool Ranking Questions;
Forest Management Plan Ranking Questions;
Forestry and Wildlife Pool Ranking Questions;
Cropland, Vegetable and Specialty Crop Pool Ranking Questions;
Pasture and Perennial Cropland Ranking Questions;
Historically Underserved Ranking Questions 

National EQIP Initiatives

Description

Ranking Application Deadline Dates

Additional Documents

EQIP Energy Initiative

Assist producers to conserve energy on their farms through an Agriculture Energy Management Plan (AgEMP), also known as an on-farm energy audit and provide assistance to implement various recommended measures identified in an energy audit.

 March 21, 2014

Energy Initiative Screening;
Energy Ranking Questions;
Energy Initiative Cost List;
Energy Initiative Conservation Activity Plans Cost List;
On-Farm Energy Plan Ranking Questions

EQIP Organic Initiative

Special EQIP funding is available to organic growers and those transitioning to organic production.

 March 21, 2014

Organic Cost List; 
Certified Organic Self Certification Wkst;
Certified Organic Ranking Questions;
Transition to Organic Ranking Questions;

National Water Quality Initiative

The purpose of the National Water Quality Initiative is to assist producers in addressing high-priority water resource concerns in small watersheds. The Rock River watershed in Franklin County, Vermont is selected for the National Water Quality Initiative in 2014.

 TBA

Coming Soon:
Priority WS Map
NWQI Screening Process
NWQI Practices
NWQI Ranking Tool
NWQI Payment Schedule 
 

State EQIP Initiatives

Description

Application Cutoff Date

Additional Documents

America's Great Outdoors

The purpose of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative is to assist producers in improving water quality. For 2014, AGO is open statewide for cover crops and other land treatment practices.

 April 17, 2014

AGO Practices
AGO Ranking Tool
AGO Payment Schedules

Edge-of-Field Water Quality Monitoring

 Landowners in the Lake Champlain Basin are eligible to participate in this opportunity to evaluate conservation system performance, validate and calibrate models, and inform on-far adaptive management. Applicants are eligible to install edge-of-field monitoring systems that will be installed and monitored by NRCS partners, and to install field practices that benefit soil health and water quality for monitoring and measurement. See the Edge-of-Field Success Story to read about how this initiative benefits farmers in Vermont.

 

Coming Soon:
EOF Screening Process
EOF Focus Area
EOF Practices
EOF Ranking Tool
EOF Payment Schedules 

 

General Program Description

EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. EQIP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

All approved EQIP contracts will have a minimum term that ends one year after the implementation of the last scheduled practice and a maximum term of ten years. Contracts will provide set payments to implement eligible conservation practices, based on a per unit cost of installing a practice in a typical scenario.

Persons who are engaged in livestock or agricultural production on eligible land may participate in the EQIP program. Contracted EQIP activities are carried out according to an environmental quality incentives program plan of operations which is developed with the producer. The EQIP Plan of Operations identifies the appropriate conservation practice or practices to address resource concerns. The contracted practices must be implemented according to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions.

EQIP payment rates may cover up to 75 percent of the costs of installing certain conservation practices in a typical setting.  However, limited resource producers, beginning farmers and ranchers, and socially disadvantaged farmers may be eligible for up to 90 percent.  Payments for specified management practices may be provided for up to three years to encourage producers to carry out those practices which they may not otherwise implement.  An individual or entity may not receive, directly or indirectly, payments that, in the aggregate, exceed $300,000 for all EQIP contracts entered during the term of the Farm Bill.

EQIP participants may elect to use certified Technical Service Providers for technical assistance.

Forms Needed to Signup:

The following document requires Acrobat Reader
 2014 Farm Bill Application
2014 Application Checklist
 

PLEASE NOTE: Practices started or completed before NRCS signs the contract are not eligible for payments, in accordance with program regulation and the Conservation Program Contract (CPC) appendix. Starting a practice or engaging the services of a technical service provider (TSP) before the contract is approved by NRCS renders an applicant ineligible for payment unless a waiver has been granted by the State Conservationist. Requests for a waiver to this provision must be made in writing. Waivers may be considered in special cases for meritorious reasons for applications that meet all eligibility requirements, provided that the practice was not started when the waiver application is made.

Vermont Regular Pool Program Descriptions

EQIP program sign-ups are conducted at USDA Service Centers in Vermont.

The following is basic information for the various funding pools that a participant can choose to enroll their 2014 EQIP application in. Priority resource concerns are mentioned in each funding pool description below.

All funding pools are subject to a $300,000 payment limitation, except for the organic initiative (see below).  All payments, even EQIP payments scheduled for 2014 and beyond under prior year EQIP contracts, will be factored in to determine the $300,000 payment limit for new FY2014 contracts.

Certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic may elect to apply under the organic initiative, or any of the other funding pools available. The organic initiative supports producers who need to install practices in order to obtain organic certification and to maintain organic certification. Practices offered through this initiative include grazing practices, buffers, reduced tillage practices, cover cropping, water conveyance practices, and high tunnels, just to name a few. Organic Initiative applicants are limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 in any six years. This is why organic producers and those transitioning to organic, who need a costly practice like waste storage, are encouraged to apply to the Structural Pool.

For all pools, a forest management plan must be in place prior to undertaking any practice implementation in a forested area.

 

Historically Underserved Funding Pool

This funding pool is for those applicants who have self-certified on their application (NCS-CPA-1200) that they are a Historically Underserved individual and group. All practices and conservation activity plans offered in Vermont's EQIP are offered in this funding pool. Historically Underserved individuals or groups include:

  • Beginning Farmer– an individual or entity who has not operated a farm, or who has operated a farm for not more than 10 consecutive years. This requirement applies to all members of an entity. Also, applicants applying under this pool must materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm. More information on what a beginning farmer is can be found online at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/SLB_Farmer/
  • Limited Resource Producer- an applicant must have a direct or indirect gross farm sales of not more than the current indexed value in each of the previous two years and have a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, or less than 50% of county median household income in each of the previous two years. Current indexed value and a county median household income figure is located in the Limited Resource Self-Determination Toolonline. A legal entity or joint operation can be a limited resource farmer or rancher only if all of its individual members independently qualify. Applicants who self-certify eligibility as a limited resource farmer or rancher may be requested to provide records to justify their claim.
  • Socially Disadvantaged - A socially disadvantaged group is a group whose members have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. These groups include American Indians and Alaskan Natives, Asians, Black or African Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. Gender alone is not a covered group for the purposes of NRCS conservation programs. A socially disadvantaged applicant is an individual or entity who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. For an entity, at least 50% ownership in the farm business must be held by socially disadvantaged individuals.

 

Farmstead Funding Pool

This funding pool was called the Headquarters Funding Pool in 2013 and has been renamed to reflect the updated national land uses. Practices offered in the Farmstead Funding Pool include waste storage facility and other practices to address water quality resource concerns that have been created as a result of agricultural waste issues at the farmstead. Applicants who also want to address soil erosion on their cropland or grazing management concerns need to also apply to the pools that address these resource concerns. Conservation activity plans applicable to the farmstead land use such as a CNMP and NMP will be offered in this pool in 2014. CAPs will be ranked the highest priority as required by national policy.

 

Cropland, Vegetable and Specialty Crop Funding Pool

The purpose of the Cropland, Vegetable and Specialty Crop Pool is for operators who need to address soil erosion or water quality concerns by installing agronomic practices or buffers on their cropland. Composting for vegetable operations will be offered in this pool in 2014. Seasonal High Tunnels will be offered in this pool in 2014. Conservation activity plans applicable to the cropland land use such as a NMP will be offered in this pool in 2014. CAPs will be ranked the highest priority as required by national policy.

 

Forestry and Wildlife Funding Pool

The EQIP Forestry and Wildlife Pool is a combination of the New England / New York Forestry Initiative and Forestry pool that were offered in 2013. The priority of the Forestry and Wildlife Pool for 2014 is to address habitat concerns and soil erosion on forest lands and open lands so long as forest practices are part of the project. Additionally, applicants who will be addressing priority wildlife species concerns through such practices as Early Successional Habitat, Forest Stand Improvement, etc. need to apply to this pool. Aquatic Organism Passage (aka: Fish Passage) is offered in this funding pool for 2014. Conservation activity plans applicable to the forestland and/or wildlife land uses, except forest management plan, will be offered in this pool in 2014. CAPs will be ranked the highest priority as required by national policy. Forest Management Plans will be offered in their own separate funding pool, Forest Management Plan CAPs.

 

Forest Management Plan CAPs

Applicants wanting a forest management plan must apply to this pool. Forest management plans will only be offered in this funding pool.

 

Pasture and Perennial Cropland Funding Pool

This funding pool was called the Grazing and Hayland Funding pool in 2013 and has been renamed to reflect the updated national land uses. The priority of this pool is to install grazing practices such as watering facilities, fence, animal trails and walkways and pipeline. This pool is also for Hayland (perennial cropland) operators who agree to manage their Hayland for grassland birds. Aquatic Organism Passage (aka: Fish Passage) is offered in this funding pool for 2014. Conservation activity plans applicable to the pasture and/or perennial cropland land uses such as a grazing management plan will be offered in this pool in 2014. CAPs will be ranked the highest priority as required by national policy.

 

 

EQIP Ranking Documents

NRCS funds Environmental Quality Incentives Program applications that do the most to improve the environment.  Funding selections also consider the land use and the location of the applicants’ property.  A ranking system gives points to each application.  NRCS assigns points by looking at how much the land treatments in the application will improve natural resources.  A local work group made up of conservationists, agricultural producers, and others working with natural resources in the community choose which natural resource problems are most important at the local level.  The local points make up 25% of the total points used for ranking.  The NRCS State Conservationist must approve local work group ranking points, the conservation practices selected to improve the natural resource problems, and the payment rates for conservation practices.  The national and State NRCS offices chose which natural resource problems are the most important for the other 75 points used for ranking.

NRCS accepts EQIP applications year-round.  Periodically, usually once a year, NRCS announces an application deadline date to rank and select applications submitted for funding on or before the deadline date.  NRCS defers applications received after this date until the next funding cycle. 

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Links to Other Useful Information

Electronic application filing is available through the Electronic Government website.

For additional local information or to apply, contact your Local NRCS Office.

VT NRCS Office Locations and Contact Information

EQIP Information from the National NRCS Website


Contact

Obediah Racicot    
Phone: 802-951-6796