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.
Maryland NRCS is now accepting applications for EQIP. Farmers can sign up for conservation programs throughout the year, but funding selections are made at specific times. Fiscal year 2016 sign-up deadlines are January 15, 2016 and February 19, 2016. The EQIP Local Funding Pools sign-up deadline is December 18, 2015. The deadline for EQIP Future Directions is April 15, 2016.
Applications accepted after the announced deadlines may be considered for funding if additional application rounds are announced or for potential consideration in 2017. All applications are competitive and are ranked based on national, state and locally identified resource priorities and the overall benefit to the environment.
The following document describes how to apply for Farm Bill programs or visit the following website: Get Started with NRCS national page.
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 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.
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.
Maryland 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:
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, Maryland has identified the following priorities:
Wildlife Habitat Enhancement
Decision Making Process for EQIP
Input from Outside Groups, Agencies, and Citizens: The list of eligible practices in Maryland, 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.
Fiscal Year 2016 EQIP Deadlines
Applications submitted by January 15th and February 19th will be evaluated to be considered for funding in fiscal year 2016. Applications received after that date will be accepted and evaluated for future rounds of funding. The EQIP Local Funding Pools sign-up deadline is December 18, 2015.
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 kinds 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 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 Initiative provides financial assistance to help implement conservation practices for organic producers or those transitioning to organic. The Initiative addresses natural resource concerns and also helps growers meet requirements related to National Organic Program (NOP) requirements.
Organic Transition Practices and Payment Rates
Certified Organic Practices and Payment Rates
Seasonal High Tunnels
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 Initiative enables the producer to identify ways to conserve energy on the farm through two types of Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) for headquarters and/or for landscape, also known as an on-farm energy audit (headquarters and/or landscape); and by providing financial and technical assistance to help the producer implement various measures and practices recommended in these on-farm energy audits.
Working Lands for Wildlife will increase and improve early successional habitat by decreasing habitat fragmentation and reducing isolation of golden-winged warbler populations. The result will be an expansion of Appalachian breeding habitat and an increase in reproducing golden-winged warbler populations, decreasing the potential for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Through Working Lands for Wildlife, NRCS will assist private landowners to combat habitat fragmentation and degradation to restore bog turtle populations, and increase landowner confidence that the conservation practices they volunteer to implement will not harm the species or its habitat. Restoration activities will complement the existing NRCS Wetland Reserve Program effort to protect bog turtle habitat.
The primary focus of this funding pool is to address identified priority agricultural air quality resource concerns designated in the regional air quality priority areas for the Delaware and Eastern Maryland portion of the Delmarva Peninsula, consisting of the state of Delaware and Maryland east of the Chesapeake Bay up to and including Cecil County. These agricultural regional air quality priority areas may not be directly related to nonattainment of Federal air quality standards, but have significant regulatory or conservation implications for agricultural sources of pollution.