Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
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.
What’s New in North Dakota EQIP?
♦ Interested in improving honey bee and pollinator habitat?
♦ Are you interested in what financial assistance is available for a conservation practice? Check out the Cost Lists on the eFOTG.
♦ North Dakota is offering opportunities to better manage seasonal and temporary wetlands through the Prairie Pothole Wetland and Grassland Initiative. More information coming soon!
♦ The 2014 Farm Bill payment limitations have been set at $450,000 per participant.
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.
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.
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:
1. Grasslands Health
2. Soil Health
3. Water Quality and Quantity
4. 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
Applications submitted by November 14, 2014 will be evaluated to be considered for funding in fiscal year 2015. 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. Ranking information coming soon.
North Dakota EQIP Funding Pools and Ranking Documents
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North Dakota Program Contact
Jennifer C. Heglund
Assistant State Conservationist (Programs)