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


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.


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. 

2014 EQIP Signup Opportunities in Vermont

For the person who has never applied for a federal agricultural program, the conservation application process may seem confusing.  The information provided on this page and on other pages within this website are to provide a roadmap for those new to federal conservation programs. 

How to Apply

Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply or visit

Important Information for the 2014 Energy Initiative:
Beginning in Fiscal Year 2014 the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will no longer fund applicants requesting to upgrade an existing maple syrup reverse osmosis unit (R/O) through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Instead, NRCS will focus solely on funding energy audits through Technical Service Providers and assisting producers to adopt the reverse osmosis technology in situations where it has never been installed before.
Fortunately, USDA Rural Development will offer reverse osmosis upgrades through their Rural Energy for America Program. While the rules and rates between the two programs are different, an NRCS compliant energy audit is sufficient to apply for the USDA Rural Development program. Please refer to the 2014 Reverse Osmosis Unit Fact Sheet for additional details on this program.

A special sign up for nutrient management, feed management and cover cropping may be available this year! Last Day to sign up for Nutrient Management Plans and Cover Cropping would be April 17. Just in case, sign up at your local office as soon as possible!

Landowners and operators in the Lake Champlain Basin can sign up for Edge of Field Monitoring NOW at their local field office! See more about this special initiative below.



Application Cutoff Date

Additional Documents

Regular EQIP

EQIP applications may be submitted at any time with your local USDA Service Center. For more information, see 2014 Regular EQIP Funding Pool Descriptions below.

April 17, 2014

Practices Available;
Practices and Payment Amounts;
Farmstead Pool Ranking Questions;
Forest Management Plan Ranking Questions;
Forestry and Wildlife Pool Ranking Questions;
Cropland, Vegetable and Specialty Crop Pool Ranking Questions;
Pasture and Perennial Cropland Ranking Questions;
Historically Underserved Ranking Questions ;
Nutrient Mgt and Feed Mgt Conservation Activity Plan Ranking Questions

National EQIP Initiatives


Ranking Application Deadline Dates

Additional Documents

EQIP Energy Initiative

Assist producers to conserve energy on their farms through an Agriculture Energy Management Plan (AgEMP), also known as an on-farm energy audit and provide assistance to implement various recommended measures identified in an energy audit.

 March 21, 2014

Energy Initiative Screening;
Energy Ranking Questions;
Energy Initiative Cost List;
Energy Initiative Conservation Activity Plans Cost List;
On-Farm Energy Plan Ranking Questions

EQIP Organic Initiative

Special EQIP funding is available to organic growers and those transitioning to organic production.

 March 21, 2014

Organic Cost List; 
Certified Organic Self Certification Wkst;
Certified Organic Ranking Questions;
Transition to Organic Ranking Questions;

National Water Quality Initiative

The purpose of the National Water Quality Initiative is to assist producers in addressing high-priority water resource concerns in small watersheds. The Rock River watershed in Franklin County, Vermont is selected for the National Water Quality Initiative in 2014.

 June 20, 2014

NWQI Practices and Payment Amounts 
NWQI Ranking Tool


State EQIP Initiatives


Application Cutoff Date

Additional Documents

America's Great Outdoors

The purpose of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative is to assist producers in improving water quality. For 2014, the AGO is open to landowners and operators statewide for cover cropping and other land treatment practices.

 April 17, 2014

AGO Ranking Tool
AGO Practices and Payment Amounts

Edge-of-Field Water Quality Monitoring

 Landowners in the Lake Champlain Basin are eligible to participate in this opportunity to evaluate conservation system performance, validate and calibrate models, and inform on-far adaptive management. Applicants are eligible to install edge-of-field monitoring systems that will be installed and monitored by NRCS partners, and to install field practices that benefit soil health and water quality for monitoring and measurement. See the Edge-of-Field Success Story to read about how this initiative benefits farmers in Vermont.

 July 18, 2014

EOF Ranking Tool
EOF Practices and Payment Amounts 

How to Apply

Visit your local USDA Service Center

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.

More Information

Vermont EQIP Fact sheet (PDF 1,039 KB)

EQIP Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.6MB)

EQIP participants may elect to use certified Technical Service Providers for technical assistance.

Forms Needed to Signup:

The following document requires Acrobat Reader

2014 Farm Bill Application
2014 Application Checklist

PLEASE NOTE: Practices started or completed before NRCS signs the contract are not eligible for payments, in accordance with program regulation and the Conservation Program Contract (CPC) appendix. Starting a practice or engaging the services of a technical service provider (TSP) before the contract is approved by NRCS renders an applicant ineligible for payment unless a waiver has been granted by the State Conservationist. Requests for a waiver to this provision must be made in writing. Waivers may be considered in special cases for meritorious reasons for applications that meet all eligibility requirements, provided that the practice was not started when the waiver application is made.

Vermont Regular Pool Program Descriptions

The following is basic information for the various funding pools that a participant can choose to enroll their 2014 EQIP application in. Priority resource concerns are mentioned in each funding pool description below.

All funding pools are subject to a $300,000 payment limitation, except for the organic initiative (see below). All payments, even EQIP payments scheduled for 2014 and beyond under prior year EQIP contracts, will be factored in to determine the $300,000 payment limit for new FY2014 contracts.

Certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic may elect to apply under the organic initiative, or any of the other funding pools available. The organic initiative supports producers who need to install practices in order to obtain organic certification and to maintain organic certification. Practices offered through this initiative include grazing practices, buffers, reduced tillage practices, cover cropping, water conveyance practices, and high tunnels, just to name a few. Organic Initiative applicants are limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 in any six years. This is why organic producers and those transitioning to organic, who need a costly practice like waste storage, are encouraged to apply to the Structural Pool.

For all pools, a forest management plan must be in place prior to undertaking any practice implementation in a forested area.

Historically Underserved Funding Pool

This funding pool is for those applicants who have self-certified on their application (NCS-CPA-1200) that they are a Historically Underserved individual and group. All practices and conservation activity plans offered in Vermont's EQIP are offered in this funding pool. Historically Underserved individuals or groups include:

  • Beginning Farmer– an individual or entity who has not operated a farm, or who has operated a farm for not more than 10 consecutive years. This requirement applies to all members of an entity. Also, applicants applying under this pool must materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm. More information on what a beginning farmer is can be found online at:
  • Limited Resource Producer- an applicant must have a direct or indirect gross farm sales of not more than the current indexed value in each of the previous two years and have a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, or less than 50% of county median household income in each of the previous two years. Current indexed value and a county median household income figure is located in the Limited Resource Self-Determination Toolonline. A legal entity or joint operation can be a limited resource farmer or rancher only if all of its individual members independently qualify. Applicants who self-certify eligibility as a limited resource farmer or rancher may be requested to provide records to justify their claim.
  • Socially Disadvantaged - A socially disadvantaged group is a group whose members have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. These groups include American Indians and Alaskan Natives, Asians, Black or African Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. Gender alone is not a covered group for the purposes of NRCS conservation programs. A socially disadvantaged applicant is an individual or entity who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. For an entity, at least 50% ownership in the farm business must be held by socially disadvantaged individuals.

Nutrient Management and Feed Management Conservation Activity Plans Funding Pool

Operators needing or wanting a Nutrient Management Plan or a Feed Management Plan should sign up for EQIP by April 17.

Farmstead Funding Pool

This funding pool was called the Headquarters Funding Pool in 2013 and has been renamed to reflect the updated national land uses. Practices offered in the Farmstead Funding Pool include waste storage facility and other practices to address water quality resource concerns that have been created as a result of agricultural waste issues at the farmstead. Applicants who also want to address soil erosion on their cropland or grazing management concerns need to also apply to the pools that address these resource concerns. Conservation activity plans applicable to the farmstead land use such as a CNMP and NMP will be offered in this pool in 2014. CAPs will be ranked the highest priority as required by national policy.

Cropland, Vegetable and Specialty Crop Funding Pool

The purpose of the Cropland, Vegetable and Specialty Crop Pool is for operators who need to address soil erosion or water quality concerns by installing agronomic practices or buffers on their cropland. Composting for vegetable operations will be offered in this pool in 2014. Seasonal High Tunnels will be offered in this pool in 2014. Conservation activity plans applicable to the cropland land use such as a NMP will be offered in this pool in 2014. CAPs will be ranked the highest priority as required by national policy.

Forestry and Wildlife Funding Pool

The EQIP Forestry and Wildlife Pool is a combination of the New England / New York Forestry Initiative and Forestry pool that were offered in 2013. The priority of the Forestry and Wildlife Pool for 2014 is to address habitat concerns and soil erosion on forest lands and open lands so long as forest practices are part of the project. Additionally, applicants who will be addressing priority wildlife species concerns through such practices as Early Successional Habitat, Forest Stand Improvement, etc. need to apply to this pool. Aquatic Organism Passage (aka: Fish Passage) is offered in this funding pool for 2014. Conservation activity plans applicable to the forestland and/or wildlife land uses, except forest management plan, will be offered in this pool in 2014. CAPs will be ranked the highest priority as required by national policy. Forest Management Plans will be offered in their own separate funding pool, Forest Management Plan CAPs.

Forest Management Plan CAPs

Applicants wanting a forest management plan must apply to this pool. Forest management plans will only be offered in this funding pool.

Pasture and Perennial Cropland Funding Pool

This funding pool was called the Grazing and Hayland Funding pool in 2013 and has been renamed to reflect the updated national land uses. The priority of this pool is to install grazing practices such as watering facilities, fence, animal trails and walkways and pipeline. This pool is also for Hayland (perennial cropland) operators who agree to manage their Hayland for grassland birds. Aquatic Organism Passage (aka: Fish Passage) is offered in this funding pool for 2014. Conservation activity plans applicable to the pasture and/or perennial cropland land uses such as a grazing management plan will be offered in this pool in 2014. CAPs will be ranked the highest priority as required by national policy.

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.

NRCS accepts EQIP applications year-round. Periodically, usually once a year, 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.

Links to Other Useful Information

Electronic application filing is available through the Electronic Government website.


To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit

Find your local USDA Service Center 

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Vermont NRCS Farm Bill Homepage