USDA-NRCS in Georgia Announces Environmental Quality Incentives Program Sign-Up
Georgia NRCS is utilizing Inflation Reduction Act funds to bolster Farm Bill assistance for farmers, ranchers and landowners who want to further their conservation efforts.
Release No.: 01.24
ATHENS, GA, October 2, 2023 — State Conservationist Terrance O. Rudolph of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces a Fiscal Year 2024 statewide federal assistance opportunity for agricultural and forest producers, through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This sign-up that concludes on November 17, 2023, will utilize 2018 Farm Bill and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding.
While customers can apply year-round, this application ranking date announcement is for all general EQIP, special initiatives, as well as the IRA-funded Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry mitigation activities that address grazing, forestry, soil health and energy related resource concerns. Customers should discuss these sign-up options with their local conservationist to see if any are right for them.
“Georgia NRCS is looking forward to working with new and returning customers to help improve our working lands through this sign-up.” said Rudolph. “This year’s assistance, bolstered by the Inflation Reduction Act’s funding will allow us to meet the needs of more producers, acres and communities than we ever thought possible.”
NRCS conservationists work with producers to assess the conservation needs on their land; identify resource concerns and opportunities; help determine objectives; and make recommend solutions - participation is 100% voluntary.
EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers and non-industrial forest managers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health and reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, improved or created wildlife habitat, and mitigation against drought and increasing weather volatility.
How to Apply
NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs year-round, but to be included in this funding batch, interested producers can apply at their local USDA Service Center by submitting a Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200) by November 17, 2023. Additional sign-up batches may be announced later, subject to the availability of funding.
Georgia NRCS will be utilizing ACT NOW to process applications for IRA-funded Energy Combustion and Electricity Efficiency (practice codes 374-Energy Efficient Agricultural Operation; 670-Energy Efficient Lighting System; and 672-Energy Efficient Building Envelope), the Cover Crop Initiative (CCI) (practice code 340-Cover Crop), Conservation Plan Activities (CPA), Design and Implementation Activities (DIA), and Conservation Evaluation and Monitoring Activities (CEMA) ranking pools to deliver conservation faster. ACT NOW allows NRCS to immediately approve and obligate a ranked application that meets a minimum score threshold of 12 for the IRA-funded Energy Combustion and Electricity Efficiency; 67 for CCI; and 33 for CPA, DIA, and CEMA applications. This means no longer having to wait for all applications to be reviewed and preapproved for these contracts to be awarded and get started. Applications selected through ACT NOW will be batched and processed in the order received.
Historically Underserved Producer Benefits
As a reminder, historically underserved producers approved for funding through EQIP, qualify for the advanced payment option. This option allows these producers to get conservation practice payments in advance of the practice implementation.
A historically underserved producer is described as one of the below:
- Beginning Farmer or Rancher – is new to farming or ranching, or has operated a farm or ranch for less than 10-consecutive years.
- Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher – is a member of a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of that group without regard to their individual qualities.
- Veteran Farmer or Rancher – has served in the armed forces and has not operated a farm or ranch, has operated a farm or ranch for less than 10-consecutive years, or first obtained veteran status during the last 10 years.
- Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher – has a household income at or below the national poverty level. Eligibility can be determined by using this online tool.
Under the advance payment option, such producers may request payments when they have final designs and job sheets and are ready to begin their EQIP practices. Advance payments provide at least 50 percent of the payment rate for each practice. The funds must be spent within 90 days of receipt and practices must be completed as agreed to in an EQIP plan of operations. Producers also may opt to have NRCS pay the contractors or vendors directly via an assignment of payment.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit https://www.usda.gov.