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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

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Introduction

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program that helps agricultural producers in a manner that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. Through EQIP, agricultural producers receive financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices that optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural land.

Accepting Applications

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.

Eligibility

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.

Applicants must:

  • 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.

Participant Responsibilities

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.

Vermont 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:

  1. Reductions of nonpoint 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
  2. Conservation of ground and surface water resources
  3. 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
  4. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
  5. Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
  6. 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
  7. Biological carbon storage and sequestration

In addition, Vermont has identified the following priorities:

  1. Water Quality
  2. Soil Health
  3. Soil Erosion
  4. Forestry and Wildlife

Decision Making Process for EQIP

Input from Outside Groups, Agencies, and Citizens: The list of eligible practices in [State], payment rates and limits, eligible resource concerns, and state scoring criteria are developed based on input and recommendations from the State Technical Committee (STC). The STC is made up of representatives from various agribusinesses, producer groups, conservation organizations, and federal, state, and tribal government agency representatives.

 

The Local Work Group process and scoring criteria, are based on input from the counties in the Local Work Groups (LWG).

The priorities set at the state and county level are those that the STC and LWG respectively determined were of the greatest need and would have the greatest positive environmental impact. The scoring process at both the state and local level was developed in order to select those projects that would provide the greatest environmental benefit, and therefore provide the greatest public good.

Fiscal Year 2015 EQIP Deadlines

Applications submitted by February 20, 2015 will be evaluated to be considered for funding in fiscal year 2015. Applications received after that date will be accepted and evaluated for future rounds of funding.

To apply for EQIP,your local service center Get Started with NRCS - Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease? NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. Learn how here.

Vermont EQIP Funding Pools and Ranking Documents

SIGN UP TODAY FOR 2015 FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES! THE NEXT DEADLINE TO APPLY IS FEBRUARY 20, 2015

Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs) are batched on a monthly basis. This means that once a month eligible applications that include a CAP are preapproved for funding. Examples of CAPs include Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP), Forest Management Plan, Nutrient Management Plan, Wildlife Plans, and Grazing Plans. Applications that include a Agricultural Energy Plan must apply to the Energy Initiative.  The batching dates for CAPs are November 21, December 19, January 16, February 20, March 20, April 17, and May 15. More information about CAPs is available in the National Conservation Activity Plan web site.

A list of all the practices being offered in 2015 EQIP and their payment amounts is coming soon.

 

More Information

Vermont EQIP Fact sheet

EQIP Fact Sheet

2015 EQIP Practices and Payment Amounts

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

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

Forms Needed to Signup:

The following document requires Acrobat Reader

2015 Farm Bill Application

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.

2015 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. 

How to Apply

Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply or visit /getstartedwww.nrcs.usda.gov.

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 2015 Regular EQIP Funding Pool Descriptions below.

February 20, 2015

2015 Practices and Payment Amounts

Conservation Activity Plan Ranking Tool

Cropland Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Gap Watersheds

Farmstead Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Gap Watersheds

Pasture and Perennial Cropland (Grazing) Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Gap Watersheds

Cropland Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Non-Gap Watersheds

Farmstead Pool Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Non-Gap Watersheds

Pasture and Perennial Cropland (Grazing) Ranking Tool for Lke Champlain Non-Gap Watersheds

Cropland Ranking Tool for Rest of State

Farmstead Ranking Tool for Rest of State

Pasture and Perennial Cropland (Grazing) Ranking Tool for Rest of State

High Tunnel and Specialty Crop Ranking Tool

Historically Underserved Ranking Tool

Forestry and Wildlife Ranking Tool

Grassland Bird Fact Sheet

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.

 February 20, 2015

Energy Initiative Ranking Tool

Energy Conservation Activity Plan Ranking Tool

Energy Conservation Activity Plan Criteria

EQIP Organic Initiative

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

 February 20, 2015

Certified Organic Ranking Tool

Organic Transition Ranking Tool

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 was selected for the National Water Quality Initiative in 2014.

 February 20, 2015

coming soon!

State EQIP Initiatives

Description

Application Cutoff Date

Additional Documents

 

 

 

 

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.

 TBA

coming soon!

 

Vermont Regular Pool Program Descriptions

The following is basic information for the various funding pools that a participant can choose to enroll their 2015 EQIP application in. Priority resource concerns are mentioned in each funding pool description below.

All funding pools are subject to a $450,000 payment limitation, except for the organic initiative (see below). All payments, even EQIP payments scheduled for 2015 and beyond under 2014 Farm Bill contracts, will be factored in to determine the $450,000 payment limit for new FY2015 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.

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

 

State Level Funding Pools:

Applicants applying under a state level funding pool compete state-wide for a contract.

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 Tool online. 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.
  • Veteran Farmer or Rancher - A Veteran Farmer or Rancher is a person who served in United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, including the reserve components thereof, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable, and who has not operated a farm or ranch; or has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years.

Specialty Crop (Seasonal High Tunnel) Pool

Seasonal high tunnel and associated practices such as irrigation are offered in this funding pool. Composting for vegetable operations is also offered in the Specialty Crop Pool. To be clear, you do not need to be applying for a high tunnel to be in the Seasonal High Tunnel pool.

Forestry and Wildlife Funding Pool

The priority of the Forestry and Wildlife Pool is to address water quality resource concerns in the Lake Champlain basin. This pool also prioritizes 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. This pool is also for Hayland (perennial cropland) operators who agree to manage their Hayland for grassland birds.

Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs)

Applicants wanting any CAP, except an agricultural energy CAP, must apply to this pool. Applicants interested in an agricultural energy CAP must apply to the Energy Initiative CAP Funding Pool. Click here for CAPs payment rates and other CAP information.

 

National Initiatives

Applicants applying under a national initiative funding pool compete state-wide for a contract.

Organic Initiative

This initiative provides special funding to organic growers and those transitioning to organic production. 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 watershed applicable Farmstead Pool.

On-Farm Energy Initiative

Assists 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.

On Farm Energy Conservation Activity Plan

This funding pool is for producers who are interested in an energy plan.

Watershed Level Funding Pools:

There are three watershed levels that an applicant will be placed in depending on the location of the application (where the practices are planned to be implemented). Applicants compete on a watershed level in these funding pools.

Lake Champlain Gap

Rest of Lake Champlain

Rest of the State

LC Gap – Farmstead

LC Non Gap – Farmstead

ROS – Farmstead

LC Gap – Pasture and Perennial Cropland

LC Non Gap – Pasture and Perennial Cropland

ROS – Pasture and Perennial Cropland

LC Gap – Cropland

LC Non Gap – Cropland

ROS – Cropland

Farmstead Pool

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. Practices to assist applicants with implementing their Land Treatment Plan are also included in this funding pool Applicants who also want to address other soil erosion concerns on their cropland or grazing management concerns can also be considered in the pools that address these resource concerns.

Cropland Pool

The purpose of the Cropland Pool is for operators who need to address soil erosion, soil health or water quality concerns by installing agronomic practices or buffers on their cropland. Cropland includes hay land that is part of a rotation schedule.

Pasture and Perennial Cropland Pool

The priority of this pool is to install grazing practices such as watering facilities, fence, animal trails and walkways and pipeline. Aquatic Organism Passage (aka: Fish Passage) is offered in this funding pool.

 

Nationally Announced Watershed Funding Pools

National Water Quality Initiative

The NWQI assists producers to address high-priority water resource concerns in small watersheds with streams or water bodies in one or more of the following categories (targeted waters). All practices offered in Vermont EQIP are offered in this pool. At a minimum, the Rock River Watershed will be included in the NWQI. The national office will announce a separate sign up period for this funding pool later in the year.

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.

Conservation Activity Plan Ranking Tool
Energy Conservation Activity Plan Ranking Tool
High Tunnel and Specialty Crop Ranking Tool
Forestry and Wildlife Ranking Tool
Historically Underserved Ranking Tool
Cropland Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Gap Watersheds
Farmstead Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Gap Watersheds
Pasture and Perennial Cropland Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Gap Watersheds
Cropland Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Non-Gap Watersheds
Farmstead Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Non-Gap Watersheds
Pasture and Perennial Cropland Ranking Tool for Lake Champlain Non-Gap Watersheds
Cropland Ranking Tool for Rest of State
Farmstead Ranking Tool for Rest of State
Pasture and Perennial Cropland Ranking Tool for Rest of State
 

Links to Other Useful Information

Electronic application filing is available through the Electronic Government website.

 

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

Find your local USDA Service Center 

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