Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for 2016
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. Find Your local NRCS Office
Coming soon to North Dakota EQIP
Assistance in improving honeybee and pollinator habitat
North Dakota is offering opportunities to better manage seasonal and temporary wetlands through the Prairie Pothole Wetland and Grassland Initiative.
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
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. For more information on EQIP financial assistance.
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.
Historically Underserved Definitions.
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 are to be 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.
To be able to participate in EQIP, an applicant must meet ALL of the following criteria:
1. A person, legal entity, Indian Tribe, native corporation, or joint operation with signature authority.
2. Engaged in agricultural production or forestry management or have an interest in the agricultural or forestry operation associated with the land being offered for enrollment in EQIP. Interest in the agricultural operation means one of the following:
- Owner or renter of the land in the agricultural operation
- An interest in the agricultural products, commodities, or livestock produced by the agricultural operation
- A member of a joint operation that either owns or rents land in the agricultural operation or has an interest in the agricultural products, commodities, or livestock produced by the agricultural operation
3. Have control of the land for the term of the contract period.
4. Be in compliance with the provisions for protecting the interests of tenants and sharecroppers, including the provisions for sharing EQIP payments on a fair and equitable basis.
5. Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation compliance provisions at 7 CFR Part 12.
6. Be within appropriate payment limitation requirements, as specified in the amendments to EQIP made by the Agricultural Act of 2014.
7. Beginning in fiscal year 2015, be in compliance with adjusted gross income requirements, as specified in 7 CFR Part 1400.
8. Able to obtain a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number and register the number in the System for Award Management www.SAM.gov database as required of entity-participants in 7 CFR Part 1466.
To be eligible for EQIP, the land being offered for application into the program must meet all of the following criteria:
1. Be agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land, Tribal land, or other land on which agricultural products, livestock, or forest-related products are produced.
Note: By statute and regulation (16 U.S.C. Sections 3839aa-1 and 7 CFR Section 1466.8), EQIP may only be used to implement practices or support activities on eligible land. As such, areas of water in which no land-based conservation practices will be implemented are not eligible.
2. NRCS determines that the land included in the EQIP application is one of the following:
- Privately owned land
- Eligible publicly owned land
- Indian land
3. The participant provides written permission from the landowner to allow implementation of a structural or vegetative practice on land not owned by the applicant.
4. NRCS determines that the planned practices will address an identified natural resource concern.
5. Have irrigated 2 out of the last 5 years to install an irrigation-related practice with a purpose of water conservation. The requirement for documentation of irrigation history applies when the purpose of the practice is to conserve water and addresses the Insufficient Water natural resources concern
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:
- Identifies the appropriate conservation practice or activities needed to address identified natural resource concerns on agricultural lands.
- 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.
National and State Priorities
North Dakota NRCS has identified the following High Priorities:
- Grasslands Health
- Soil Health
- Water Quality and Quantity
- Wildlife habitat enhancement
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
Learn more about NRCS national financial assistance programs relating to Air Quality, On-Farm Energy, Organic and Seasonal High Tunnel.
Decision Making Process for EQIP
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has been designed through a locally-led process. The North Dakota State Technical Committee, consisting of conservation stakeholders across the State, provides NRCS with invaluable recommendations for localizing the program to meet the natural resource needs in North Dakota.
The State Technical Committee helps determine statewide resource concerns, develop application ranking criteria, identify eligible conservation practices, recommend practice payment rates, and suggest funding allocations.
EQIP has been further localized by assigning much of the priority setting at the county or reservation level. The USDA Local Work Group (LWG), with membership consisting of NRCS, FSA, Extension Service and Tribal, State, and local government officials, provide recommendations to the NRCS district conservationist on program implementation at the local level.
Operating within the parameters developed by the NRCS, from recommendations received by the State Technical Committee, the LWG provides grassroots input to the program. This is accomplished in their role of determining local resource concerns, refining application ranking criteria to meet local needs, identifying eligible conservation practices, and recommending practice payment rates.
To accomplish the natural resource goals developed by the LWGs, 62 percent of North Dakota's EQIP allocation will be allocated to the counties. These resource concerns range from ground water quality to plant diversity and wildlife habitat. The remaining allocation has been prioritized to address statewide priorities recommended by the State Technical Committee.
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.
The statewide priority of Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) will aid in implementing animal waste systems within the State.
The statewide priority of Irrigation will aid in implementing efficient irrigation systems through conversions of existing irrigation systems to a more water efficient system.
The statewide priority of Forestry will aid in enhancing our forestry and energy conservation resources. The statewide priority of Soil Quality will enhance soil health.
Since requests for EQIP contracts outweigh available funding, EQIP applicants compete for contracts through a system that ranks the application on how well it will optimize environmental benefits. The optimization is determined by quantifying the extent that local, State, and National EQIP priorities will be met.
Get Started Today for 2016 Funding
Applications submitted by October 16th, 2015 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.
To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted
NRCS will help eligible producers develop an EQIP plan of operations, which will become the basis of the EQIP contract. Download the NRCS Conservation Program Application here (PDF; 267 KB)
EQIP applications will be ranked based on a number of factors, including the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of the proposal.
North Dakota Program Contact
Jennifer C. Heglund
Assistant State Conservationist (Programs)