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Lambs Find Their High Tunnel Through EQIP

Environmental Quality Incentives Program - Utah

EQIP

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is NRCS’ flagship conservation program that helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners integrate conservation into working lands.

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. 

ACT NOW

Utah will be using the ACT Now process as outline in the Conservation Programs Manual 530.37 for selected fund pools .  ACT Now allows NRCS to immediately approve and obligate a ranked application in a designated ranking pool when an eligible application meets or exceeds a State determined minimum ranking score without waiting until the NRCS field office ranks all applications in the ranking pool.

The following pools will use the ACT Now process in FY 2023.

Price San Raphael Salinity Area.  ACT Now funding level will be $$882,240. The ranking threshold for obligation will be a Workload Prioritization of High.

Spanish Fork Irrigation SFP.     ACT Now funding level will be $350,000. The ranking threshold for obligation will be a ranking of 75 points.

Wayne County Irrigation SFP.   Act Now Funding level will be $500,000. The ranking threshold for obligation will be a ranking of 25 points 

Deadlines for EQIP Initiative fund pools are: 

  • October 14, 2022 Application deadline 

  • April 1, 2023 Application Deadline for Batch 2 

  • June 30, 2023 Application Deadline for Batch 3 

2023 Ranking Criteria -- coming soon 

Workload Prioritization 

Urban Agriculture

Agricultural producers 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. Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply, but applicants must: 

  • Control of 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 

Accepting Applications 

EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application batching "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. To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted. To apply for EQIP complete the Conservation Program Application Form (PDF, 13KB) and submit it to your local service center. 

Application Evaluation 

Screening tools may also be used to manage workload and identify projects that will provide the most environmental benefits.  The local Field Office collects information about the applicants’ agricultural operations through existing information, on-site visits, and/or personal communications and works with the applicant to develop a Conservation Plan. The information collected is used to rank all eligible applications which results in a numerical score.  Applications for conservation practices and systems that will result in greater environmental benefits for national, state, and/or local natural resource priorities will receive a higher score and higher priority to receive an offer for a financial assistance contract.  Learn more about the evaluation process

EQIP Contract 

If your application is selected and pre-approved for funding, NRCS will send you an intent to proceed letter. The plan will be finalized and approved and then NRCS will obligate the money and offer you an EQIP contract to receive financial assistance for the cost of implementing the practices.  An EQIP contract is a legally binding agreement and the participants’ responsibilities are considerable. The best place to learn about these responsibilities is to thoroughly review the NRCS-CPA-1200  (Application) with Appendix (PDF) which set forth the terms and conditions of the contract. 

Conservation Incentive Contract

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. 

Conservation Plans 

Program applications are required to be supported by an NRCS approved conservation plan that provides documentation of the practices that could be used to address natural resource concerns.  NRCS will develop and provide program applicants with an approved conservation plan.  Producers may also apply for financial assistance to hire Technical Service Providers (TSP) to develop specialty plans called  called CPA, CIA, DEMA plans 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. 

  1. Helps approved participants implement conservation practices and activities according to an approved EQIP plan of operations that is 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. 

Notice to Applicants:  Any conservation practice started prior to written contract approval will result in the ineligibility of that practice for EQIP assistance unless a waiver has been approved. 

Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning, Limited Resource, and Military Veteran Farmers and Ranchers 

The 2018 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 and ranchers. It provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services. Enhancements include higher payment rates and advance payments. EQIP provides at least 50 percent of the contracted payment for each conservation practice up front, before the practice is implemented, to purchase materials or contract services. Utah is committed to reaching out to these 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. 

Urban Agriculture 

Urban farms empower people to solve food access issues of their community by providing locally grown fruits and vegetables. The farms also provide jobs, beautify neighborhoods, and teach adults and children how to grow healthy food. 
Urban farmers also practice conservation. They convert food waste into healthy soils by composting, minimize stormwater runoff by capturing rainwater, save energy costs that would otherwise be used for long-distance transportation of food items, and create more green space in the city. 

Learn more. 

National Priorities 

Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program:  The primary goal of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program is to reduce salinity concentrations in the Colorado River. In partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation is the NRCS with on-farm salinity control responsibilities funded primarily through EQIP allocations to approved salinity project areas. Other partners in this effort include the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum, and State of Utah Department of Agriculture and Food with responsibilities to administer Basin States Program funds. 

 
On-Farm Energy Initiative: NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. NRCS then uses audit data to develop energy conservation recommendations. Each AgEMP has a landscape component that assesses equipment and farming processes and a farm headquarters component that assesses power usage and efficiencies in livestock buildings, grain handling operations, and similar facilities to support the farm operation. 

High Tunnel System: NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels: steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment, and better air quality due to fewer vehicles being needed to transport crops. 

National Water Quality Initiative: Supports the voluntary actions of farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to improve water quality. Through the water quality focused efforts, eligible producers will invest in voluntary conservation practices to help provide cleaner water for their neighbors and communities. Using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance to producers for implementing conservation practices such as riparian buffers, conservation tillage, irrigation water management, and soil moisture monitoring in selected watershed locations. 

Organic Initiative: The Organic Initiative provides financial assistance to implement a broad set of conservation practices to assist organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production in addressing resource concerns. This includes: developing a conservation plan, establishing buffer zones, planning and installing pollinator habitat, improving soil quality and organic matter while minimizing erosion, developing a grazing plan and supportive livestock practices, improving irrigation efficiency, and enhancing cropping rotations and nutrient management. 

Sage Grouse Initiative: NRCS’ sage grouse efforts are part of Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), through which NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help ranchers restore and protect habitat for sage grouse. Focuses on making measurable and significant progress toward treating a specific threat to sage-grouse on private lands through strategic use of conservation programs. Visit NRCS’ sage grouse webpage to learn more. 

Southwest Willow Flycatcher: NRCS works with producers to restore habitat in riparian areas in the Southwest in effort to increase populations of the southwestern willow flycatcher, provide habitat for other species and provide habitat for other species and provide predictability to producers, ensuring they can continue managing their working lands.  A voluntary, innovative approach with farmers, ranchers and forest managers to benefit high-priority habitat for seven species of wildlife that are declining, candidates for listing or listed under the ESA. Through WLFW, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with producers to create and improve wildlife habitat with regulatory predictability from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 

State Priorities 

Livestock Production Limitation 
Field Sediment, nutrient, and pathogen loss: 
Source Water Depletion 
Soil Quality Limitation 
Terrestrial Habitat 
Fire Management 
Degraded Plant Condition

Ranking Criteria

Utah Payment Schedules -- coming soon 

EQIP Funding Category

  • Cropland: This category addresses soil erosion and water quality resource concerns on cropland and adjacent incidental areas

  • Forestry:  This category assists producers with non-industrial private forest land address resource concerns on land used for producing forest-related products. 
     
  • Pasture: This category assists producers that have a pasture operation to address natural resource concerns related to the growing, raising, or reproducing of livestock. 
     
  • Range: This category assists producers that have a range operation to address natural resource concerns related to the growing, raising, or reproducing of livestock. 
     
  • Salinity:  This category assists producers to reduce salinity in irrigation water preventing salts from dissolving and mixing with the Colorado River's flow. 
     
  • Wildlife Habitat:  This category promotes habitat resource concerns for all wildlife species, including restoring, developing, or enhancing wildlife habitat. 
     
  • Southwest Willow Flycatcher: This category assists eligible producers implement conservation practices to address habitat loss without taking land out of production. 
     
  • High Tunnels:  This category assists producers to extend the growing season, improve plant and soil quality, reduce nutrient and pesticide transportation, improve air quality through reduced transportation inputs, and reduce energy use by providing consumers with a local source of fresh produce. 
     
  • National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI): The NWQI is a joint initiative with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address sources of water pollution including nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and pathogens related to agricultural production. Watersheds are selected to receive targeted, long -term investment to accelerate voluntary conservation efforts to improve water quality. 
     
  • Animal Feeding Operations: This category assists producers with animal feeding operations to address resource concerns related to the storage, treatment, and management of animal waste. 
     
  • On-Farm Energy: This category assists producers identify ways to reduce energy use on their farms and to implement various recommended measures using conservation practices that address inefficient use of on-farm energy. This category only offers assistance for 128 Conservation Activity Plans-Ag Energy Management Plans (AgEMPs) and certain energy conservation practices. 
     
  • Organic Initiative: This category assists organic producers implement a broad set of conservation practices to address resource concerns. This initiative is further divided to rank certified organic operations and transitioning to organic operations separately. Producers exempt from certification are considered under the transitioning category. 
     
  • CPA, CIA, DEMA:  A CPA, CIA, DEMA developed by a Technical Service Provider (TSP) identifies conservation practices needed to address a specific natural resource need, typically for land transitioning to organic production, grazing land, or forest land, or for specific resource needs such as nutrient management. 

Davie Stokes 
davie.stokes@usda.gov 
Program Manager (EQIP,  AMA) 
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service 
340 North 600 East 
Richfield, UT 84701 
(435) 609-9187 

Additional Information

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit offices.usda.gov.

How to Get Assistance

Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?

Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

how to get started

To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.

NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.

We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:

  • To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
  • To meet other eligibility certifications.

Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.

Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.

As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:

  • An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
  • A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
  • A farm tract number.

If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.

NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.

If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.

Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.