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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

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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.

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

Benefits

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.

Eligibility

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.

Socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers, Indian tribes and veterans are eligible for an increased payment rate and may receive advance payment of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.

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

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply. 

How to Apply

NRCS accepts EQIP applications year-round. Periodically, NRCS announces an application deadline date to rank and select applications submitted for funding on or before the deadline date. NRCS defers applications received after this date until the next funding cycle. The application deadlines for Fiscal Year 2014 funding are Nov. 15, 2013 and Jan. 17, 2014.

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.

Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply or 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.

EQIP applications will be ranked based on a number of factors, including the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of the proposal.

 

EQIP Ranking Documents

NRCS funds Environmental Quality Incentives Program applications that do the most to improve the environment. Funding selections also consider the land use and the location of the applicants’ property. A ranking system gives points to each application. NRCS assigns points by looking at how much the land treatments in the application will improve natural resources. A local work group made up of conservationists, agricultural producers, and others working with natural resources in the community choose which natural resource problems are most important at the local level. The local points make up 25% of the total points used for ranking. The NRCS State Conservationist must approve local work group ranking points, the conservation practices selected to improve the natural resource problems, and the payment rates for conservation practices. The national and State NRCS offices chose which natural resource problems are the most important for the other 75 points used for ranking.

Nebraska EQIP Ranking Tools:

Payment and Benefit Limitations

Click here to view the Nebraska EQIP Payment Rates Summary

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 $300,000 for all EQIP contracts entered into during any six-year period. Participants whose projects NRCS determines to have special environmental significance may petition the NRCS Chief for the payment limitation to be waived to a maximum of $450,000. 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 limited to individuals or entities with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $900,000 per year or less, unless two-thirds of that money is derived from agriculture, ranching, or forestry operations. The limit is based on the 3 tax years immediately preceding the year of the original contract obligation.

Conservation Plans

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:

  1. Identifies the appropriate conservation practice or activities needed to address identified natural resource concerns on agricultural lands
  2. Helps approved participants implement conservation practices and activities according to an approved EQIP plan of operations. 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.
  3. Starting a practice prior to having written contract approval will result in the ineligibility of that practice from EQIP assistance unless a waiver has been approved.

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 EQIP Initiatives

The table below identifies the national initiatives supported by EQIP that may be available to producers engaged in specific kinds of agricultural activities, located in specific geographic locations, or opportunities associated with agency approved initiatives. In addition to the following EQIP initiatives, interested producers should also check with their local or State NRCS offices as described in the “how to apply for assistance” link above. 

Program Name Program Description
EQIP

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.

Nebraska EQIP Initiatives

Drought Recovery Initiative

Through this special initiative, farmers and ranchers may apply for assistance to install conservation practices that can help reduce the negative impacts of drought, and will help improve the sustainability of their operation in the long run.

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 conservation practices recommended in these on-farm energy audits.

Organic Initiative

Provides financial assistance to help implement conservation practices for organic producers and those transitioning to organic to address natural resource concerns

It also helps growers meet requirements related to National Organic Program (NOP) requirements and certain program payment limitations.

National Water Quality Initiative

Helps farmers and ranchers implement conservation systems to reduce nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and pathogen contributions from agricultural land in specific approved watershed. Contact your local NRCS field office to see if you are eligible.

 

 

Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative

Helps producers plan and implement seasonal high tunnels, which are steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner.

National Landscape Initiatives

Landscape Initiatives

These initiatives enable NRCS to more effectively address priority natural resource concerns by delivering systems of practices, primarily to the most vulnerable lands within geographic focus areas.

 

Other EQIP Programs

Program Name

Program Description

Who Can Apply

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)

Using EQIP financial assistance, CIG awards competitive grants to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production.

Non-Federal governmental or nongovernmental organizations, Tribes, or individuals.

General EQIP Information 

Map of Total Active EQIP and WHIP Contracts

EQIP results data are now housed on the RCA Soil Viewer website, http://soils.usda.gov/survey/rca/viewer

Links to program-specific reports for FY2009 - 2012 are available on this page.

 

 

More Information

EQIP Fact Sheet (PDF, xxKB)

For more information visit your local USDA Service Center

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or www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.

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Contact:

Rich Torpin, EQIP Program Manager
(402) 437-4061