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Environmental Quality Incentives Program


NRCS staff review an EQIP contract with a dailry farmer.

NRCS staff review an EQIP contract with a dairy farmer .


 

Environmental Quality Incentives Program Interim Final Rule with Request for Comments

This interim rule with request for comment amends the EQIP to incorporate programmatic changes as authorized by amendments in the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Act).

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NRCS-2014-0007-0001

See a summary of the changes on the NRCS Farm Bill website.

See the Civil Rights Impact and Regulatory Impact Analyses on this page.

The Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact can be found on the NRCS NEPA Documents and Supporting Analysis Compliance page.

Introduction

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

Payments

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. Farm Bill legislation also combined  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. 

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 rate 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, Farm Bill legislation also established that conservation program benefits to 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 are required to be supported by an NRCS approved conservation plan which 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 (CAP) to address certain land use activities or specific resource needs on your land.

NRCS works with the producer to develop a plan of operations 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.

How To Apply

Information about how to apply for assistance through EQIP is available online.

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.

Depending upon annual appropriations, NRCS will allocate specific amounts of EQIP funding to meet legislative requirements, address certain national priorities, and also make funds available for NRCS State Conservationists to help address resource priorities identified by State Technical Committees. 

National EQIP Initiatives

The table below identifies the national initiatives supported by EQIP that may be available to producers engaged in specific kinds of agricultural activities, located in specific geographic locations, or opportunities associated with agency approved initiatives.  In addition to the following EQIP initiatives, interested producers should also check with their local or State NRCS offices as described in the “how to apply for assistance” link above.

Program Name Program Description
EQIP

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.

National EQIP Initiatives

Air Quality Initiative

Provides financial assistance to implement approved conservation practices to address significant air quality resource concerns for designated high priority geographic locations throughout the nation.

Priority States are designated each fiscal year based upon Agency priorities to address air quality issues such as particulate matter and ozone pollutants. Legislation requires that $25 million of EQIP be targeted to this initiative each fiscal year.

On-Farm Energy Initiative

Enables the producer to identify ways to conserve energy on the farm through development of Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) also known as an on-farm energy audit; and by providing financial and technical assistance to help the producer implement various conservation practices recommended in these on-farm energy audits.

Organic Initiative

Provides financial assistance to help implement conservation practices for organic producers and those transitioning to organic to address natural resource concerns 

It also helps growers meet requirements related to National Organic Program (NOP) requirements and certain program payment limitations.

Seasonal High Tunnel System For Crops

The purpose of the “Seasonal High Tunnel System for Crops” conservation practice (code 798) is to assist producers to extend the growing season for high-value crops in an environmentally safe manner.  The practice has the potential to assist producers to address resource concerns by improving plant quality, improving soil quality, and reducing nutrient and pesticide transport.

National Landscape Initiatives

Landscape Initiatives

These initiatives enable NRCS to more effectively address priority natural resource concerns by delivering systems of practices, primarily to the most vulnerable lands within geographic focus areas.

 

Other EQIP Programs

Program Name

Program Description

Who Can Apply

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)

Using EQIP financial assistance, CIG awards competitive grants to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production.

Non-Federal governmental or nongovernmental organizations, Tribes, or individuals.

Colorado River Basin Salinity Project

Helps producers in this river basin reduce salinity preventing salts from dissolving and mixing with the river's flow. Different States apply varying criteria. Contact your local NRCS field office to find out more.

General EQIP Information

2015 Conservation Activity Plans

2014 Conservation Activity Plans

2013 Conservation Activity Plans

2008 EQIP Final Rule Civil Rights Impact Analysis

2008 EQIP Interim Final Rule

2008 Farm Bill EQIP Fact Sheet

2008 Farm Bill EQIP At A Glance

2008 EQIP Interim Final Rule Correction
 

EQIP results data are now housed on the RCA Soil Viewer website, http://soils.usda.gov/survey/rca/viewer

Links to program-specific reports for FY2009 - 2012 are available on this page.