What's New in EQIP?
The former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program was folded into EQIP
Advance payment opportunities now exist for veteran agricultural producers
Advance payments for socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers, Indian tribes and veterans were raised from 30 percent to 50 percent
Payment limitations are set at $450,000 with no ability to waive
Application cutoff dates for FY 2016:
Nov. 20, 2015, and March 18, 2016
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.
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. To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted. To apply for EQIP complete the Conservation Program Application Form and submit it to your local service center.
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. Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply, but 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
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.
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 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:
- Identifies the appropriate conservation practice or activities needed to address identified natural resource concerns on agricultural lands.
- Helps approved participants implement conservation practices and activities according to an approved EQIP plan of operations that is 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.
Notice to Applicants: Any conservation practice started prior to 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. Kentucky 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.
Environmental and Operational Benefits: National and State Priorities
EQIP can provide financial and technical assistance to plan and design such measures as, but not limited to, the following:
- Grazing management: fencing, stockwater systems, pasture planting, prescribed grazing plans
- Nutrient management: manure storage structures, planned nutrient applications, nutrient management plans
- Pest management: crop and pest monitoring activities
- Erosion control: grassed waterways, diversions, water and sediment control basins
- Wildlife habitat enhancement: stream buffers, upland wildlife habitat establishment
- Forestand management: forest stand improvement, brush management, forest management plans
- Energy conservation: seasonal high tunnels, building envelope improvement, energy management plans
These and the many other measures included in EQIP can help producers accomplish a variety of operational goals, which may include:
- Improvements to the long-term productivity and sustainability of an agricultural operation
- Improved condition of crops and forage for livestock
- Reduced costs for fuel, labor, fertilizers and pesticides
- Energy efficient systems and field operations
- Compliance with regulatory requirements
On-Farm Energy Initiative: NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. NRCS then uses audit data to develop energy conservation recommendations. Each AgEMP has a landscape component that assesses equipment and farming processes and a farm headquarters component that assesses power usage and efficiencies in livestock buildings, grain handling operations, and similar facilities to support the farm operation.
Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI): Through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and our partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in selected focus watersheds in the Mississippi River Basin. The Kentucky MRBI projects for 2016 are the Red River Watershed in parts of Logan, Simpson, and Todd Counties; the Southeast Lower Green River Watershed in parts of Henderson, Daviess, McLean, Hopkins, and Webster Counties; the Central Lower Green River Watershed in parts of Daviess, McLean, Hopkins, Webster and Henderson Counties; and the Upper Buck Creek Watershed in parts of Lincoln, Rockcastle and Pulaski Counties. The Red River project is a continuation of an existing MRBI project while the Southeast Lower Green and Central Lower Green projects are high-priority watershed projects that build on previous MRBI work done in the area. The Upper Buck Creek project is new for 2016, but focuses on extending efforts to control erosion and water quality issues in impaired areas along Buck Creek which empties into Lake Cumberland. Core and supporting practices offered through MRBI have been established in a partnership effort with the Kentucky Division of Conservation based on the natural resources being targeted. These core and supporting practices eligible for MRBI are included in the Kentucky EQIP Guidance Document.
National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI): The National Water Quality Initiative will work in priority watersheds to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners improve water quality and aquatic habitats in impaired streams. NRCS will help producers implement conservation and management practices through a systems approach to control and trap nutrient and manure runoff. Qualified producers will receive assistance for installing conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips and terraces. Please view the NWQI webpage for more information, including the 2016 Focus Watersheds.
Organic Initiative: NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers working to achieve organic certification install conservation practices for organic production. Organic payment rates have been established for qualifying practices and are included in the fiscal year EQIP Payment Schedule. Click on the following link for a copy of the Organic Initiative Ranking Sheet (PDF, 178.2 KB).
High Tunnel System Initiative: NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels, which are, steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment, and better air quality due to fewer vehicles being needed to transport crops. More than 650 high tunnels were planned for implementation in Kentucky through this Initiative since 2012.
Wildlife Initiative: The purpose of the Wildlife Initiative is to help participants develop fish and wildlife habitat on private agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land and Indian land. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to landowners and others to develop or enhance upland, wetland, riparian, and aquatic habitat areas on their property.
Forestland Initiative: The 2008 Farm Bill placed increased emphasis on non-industrial private forestland that has been continued through the 2014 Farm Bill. The purpose of the Forestland Initiative is to focus on practices that will improve forest health; promote forest management; educate land users; and create enhance, and protect forestland bird habitat.
Southeast Kentucky Early Successional Habitat Initiative (SEKESH): The purpose of the Southeast Kentucky Early Successional Habitat Initiative is to establish fish and wildlife habitat on private agricultural land and nonindustrial private forestland in a highly forested area of the State with a large potential for early successional habitat improvement. Many wildlife species either depend on or greatly benefit from areas of young forest in proximity to older more mature forest stands. However, early successional habitats are generally lacking within the initiative area. Emphasis will be placed on forest stand improvement practices with the objective of creating or maintaining early successional forest habitat to benefit a suite of wildlife species. This initiative is available in the following Kentucky counties: Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliott, Floyd, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Rockcastle, Whitley, and Wolfe.
Triplett Creek Watershed Initiative: This project is a multi-year partnership between the NRCS and the USFS to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems across the nation. The Triplett Creek Watershed area has had an increase in the occurrence of wildfires for the past 20 years. Weather events have impacted the area as well causing a tree density that threatens the safety of firefighters. A large part of the Triplett Creek Watershed is classified as Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) with private homes immediately adjacent to National Forest lands.
The project will involve management of the private lands through the development of species specific canopy and creation of early successional habitat and edge feathering to benefit wildlife. Timber stand improvement practices, woodland creation and grassland restoration will aid in restoring rare wildlife communities and improve the safety conditions for firefighters. Project plans also include road maintenance in this area increasing firefighter and public access to the remote WUI areas. Click here for more information on the Triplett Creek Watershed Initiative.
Kentucky EQIP Funding Pools and Ranking Documents
Other Helpful links (may open in new window)
State Contact: Deena Wheby,
Assistant State Conservationist for Programs