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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

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Introduction

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.

Accepting Applications

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. For more information on how to apply for Farm Bill programs visit the following website: www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

To apply for EQIP, contact your local service center.

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.

Applicants must:

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply.

Participant Responsibilities

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.

Nebraska 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:

  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

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

In addition, Nebraska has identified the following priorities:
  1. Degraded Plant Condition
    - Undesirable plant productivity and health
    - Inadequate structure and composition
    - Excessive plant pest pressure
    - Wildfire hazard, excessive biomass accumulation
  2. Livestock Production Limitation
    – Inadequate water
    – Inadequate feed and forage
    – Inadequate shelter
  3. Fish and Wildlife
    – Inadequate Habitat
    – Inadequate cover/shelter
    – Inadequate food
    – Inadequate habitat continuity (space)
    – Inadequate water
  4. Excess/Insufficient Water
    – Inefficient use of irrigation water
    – Inefficient moisture management
    – Ponding, flooding, drifted snow
  5. Water Quality Degradation
    – Excessive sediment in surface water
    – Salts in surface and ground water
    – Pesticides & Nutrients in surface and ground water
  6. Soil Erosion
    – Sheet and rill erosion
    – Wind erosion
    – Classic and Ephemeral gully erosion
  7. Soil Quality Degradation
    – Organic matter depletion
    – Compaction
    – Concentration of salts or other chemicals
    – Subsidence: Loss of volume and depth of organic soils
  8. Inefficient Energy Use
    – Equipment and Facilities
    – Farming/Ranching practices and field operations
  9. Air Quality Impacts
    – Emissions of Particulate Matter (dust & smoke)
    – Emissions of Greenhouse Gases
    – Emissions of Ozone Precursors
    – Objectionable Odors

Decision Making Process for EQIP

Input from Outside Groups, Agencies, and Citizens: The list of eligible practices in Nebraska, 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.

The Local Work Group process and scoring criteria, are based on input from the counties in the Local Work Groups (LWG).

The priorities set at the state and county level are those that the STC and LWG respectively determined were of the greatest need and would have the greatest positive environmental impact. The scoring process at both the state and local level was developed in order to select those projects that would provide the greatest environmental benefit, and therefore provide the greatest public good.

Fiscal Year 2015 EQIP Deadlines

Applications submitted by October 17, 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 apply for EQIP,your local service center

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

   

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