The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat.
Eligible program participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices, or activities like conservation planning, that address natural resource concerns on their land. Payments are made to participants after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP plan of operations are implemented. Contracts can last up to ten years in duration.
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.
Control or own eligible land
Comply with adjusted gross income (AGI) limitation 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.
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. However, starting a practice prior to a written contract approval will result in the ineligibility of that practice for EQIP assistance unless a waiver has been approved.
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.
Illinois is committed to reaching out to Historically Underserved individuals and groups. Historically Underserved participants may also receive higher payment rates. 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:
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
Conservation of ground and surface water resources
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
Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
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
Biological carbon storage and sequestration
In addition, Illinois has identified the following priorities:
Improve soil health by adding organic matter, reducing compaction, and promoting soil organisms.
Reduce soil erosion by managing water runoff and increasing plant residue.
Improve water quality by reducing the sediments, nutrients and other contaminates from entering Illinois waterways.
EQIP is available to producers or owners of eligible land with a natural resource concern. The land can be either in agricultural or forest production including producers engaged in livestock production.
Applications for EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis; however Illinois NRCS has established application cutoff dates. The application cutoff dates are listed below for the different funding pools.
Illinois agricultural producers who submit a signed application, NRCS-CPA-1200 form, at their local NRCS field offices by the application cutoff date will be evaluated for funding consideration for that batching period.
Applicants must complete the NRCS-CPA-1200 application form available at their local field office or download the application and return the form to their local NRCS field office. After submitting an application, the applicant will also receive a copy of the NRCS-CPA-1202 Contract Appendix, explaining EQIP contract terms and conditions. Reviewing the contract appendix up front helps the applicant understand the requirements of the EQIP program. In addition, all applicants need to meet eligibility requirements in order to be an EQIP participant. Contact your local office to discuss eligibility criteria.
EQIP Conservation Program Application NRCS-CPA-1200 (Spanish) (PDF, 18kb) COMING SOON
Appendix to Form NRCS-CPA-1202 (Spanish) (PDF, 47kb) COMING SOON
EQIP is a competitive process and EQIP applicants compete for funds in funding pools. The funding pools are established on a statewide or watershed basis. The various funding pool categories allow similar applications types to be grouped together when competing for funds.
In order to compete, EQIP applications are ranked using the ranking and supporting documents below. The local NRCS field office staff will work with the applicant to rank the application and plan the conservation practices. Through the process, NRCS will explain the steps and program expectations.
The Forest Management Implementation (FMI) statewide funding pool is for producers with non-industrial private forestland. The goal of the ranking is to address resource issues where forest-related products are produced.
The Grazing Land funding pool is available to applicants statewide that graze livestock. The program is to address natural resource concerns on operations involving the production, growing, raising, or reproducing of livestock.
A priority of EQIP is for the promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation. The Wildlife Habitat Conservation funding pool is available to Illinois producers who will restore, develop, or enhance wildlife habitat.
The Organic funding pools provides financial assistance to help implement conservation practices for organic producers or those transitioning to organic. The program addresses natural resource concerns and also helps producers meet requirements related to National Organic Program (NOP) requirements.
The purpose of the Seasonal High Tunnel System for Crops 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.
The On-Farm Energy funding pool provides financial and technical assistance to help the producer implement energy conserving measures and practices. In addition, the program offers Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) which is a site-specific energy analysis of eligible farmsteads.
EQIP funding is available for the development of a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP). A CAP can be developed for producers to identify conservation practices needed to address a specific natural resource need. Typically, these plans are specific to certain types of land use such as transitioning to organic operations, grazing land, forest land, or can also address a specific resource need such a plan for management of nutrients
The urban ag pilot is a new funding pool aimed at individuals and groups operating in the Chicagoland area. The pilot is to assist urban farmers producing fruits and vegetables address natural resource concerns. Seasonal high tunnels (also known as hoop houses), nutrient and pest management, and pollinator habitat are a few of the practices offered with this pilot. The funding pool is available in Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will Counties.
NWQI helps producers implement conservation systems to reduce nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and pathogen contributions from agricultural land in the following watersheds:
Douglas Creek Watershed in St. Clair County
Crooked Creek-Bon Pas Watershed in parts of Richland, Wabash, Edwards, & Lawrence Counties
Lake Vermilion Watershed in Vermilion County
Lake De Revey Watershed in Vermilion County
Total estimate for the Kinkaid Lake Watershed Restoration Project three-year plan is just over $1 million. With NRCS contributing $145,000, the U.S. Forest Service $265,000 and local partner contributions of another $31,000. With these funds, the federal agencies will support local efforts and work with surrounding land owners to improve water quality for the 2,350-acre lake that provides drinking water for about 30,000 people in southern Illinois. The primary water quality concerns include controlling phosphorus contributions from nonpoint sources like agriculture and reducing soil erosion and sedimentation into the lake.
This fund category is available statewide. The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project is a multi-state effort focused on increasing monarch habitat on private lands through plantings of milkweed and nectaring forbs as well as managing pesticide use in proximity to monarch habitat. A screening tool is used to prioritize applications in this fund category.
When developing the EQIP contract, the NRCS planner will select the practice scenario that is best suited. The ‘Payment Scenario Descriptions’ lists the practices scenarios available through EQIP. For each conservation practice, there are one or more scenarios offered to implement the practice. The scenario description explains the scenario requirements, materials, and/or special considerations. Also specified in the table are the payment amounts and the unit by which the payment is calculated.
Entities that use a tax identification number must obtain a Dun & Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number when the EQIP application is selected for funding. In addition to DUNS, the entity must register at SAM.gov. This fact sheets explains the requirements, provides the web addresses, and outlines the steps to take.
The term historically underserved producer means an eligible person or legal entity that is an Indian Tribe, beginning farmer or rancher, socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher, or limited-resource farmer or rancher. The fact sheet defines the groups to help individuals determine whether or not they qualify as a member of one of these unique groups.