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News Release

USDA Invites Input on Environmental Quality Incentives Program Rule

Contacts: 
Anita Brown (530) 792-5644
RaeAnn Dubay (530) 792-5606

DAVIS, Calif., December 17, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California is encouraging public comments on interim rules for its popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), reauthorized under the 2018 Farm Bill. EQIP helps California producers plan and implement more than 100 conservation practices on working lands. The rule – now available in the Federal Register – takes effect upon publication and includes changes to EQIP prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill.

“The Environmental Quality Incentives Program gives California producers needed tools to improve their operations while conserving natural resources,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS state conservationist in California. “The 2018 Farm Bill further strengthens EQIP to better support locally led conservation efforts while also expanding producers’ ability to address significant local resource concerns.”

While the EQIP program will function much as it has in recent Farm Bills, says Suarez, certain new incentives have been provided for in the 2018 Farm Bill. These include:

  • New incentive contracts and payments designed to build upon existing conservation;
  • New opportunities for advance payment for historically underserved producers;
  • Higher payment caps up to $140,000 for those enrolled in the Organic Initiative;
  • Expanded opportunities (rolled out in 2019) through the Conservation Innovation Grant program, to include On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials and Soil Health Demonstration Trials;
  • New incentive contracts for up to three priority resource concerns within targeted watersheds or high priority landscapes. These longer contracts will run 5-10 year (vs. typical 2-5 years);
  • New opportunity for each state to offer higher incentive rates for up to 10 priority practices.

“EQIP is a proven tool and we see these changes as further enhancements,” says Suarez. “We look forward to working with partners to tailor the program to best fit California’s unique resource concerns,” says Suarez.

NRCS invites comments on this interim rule through Feb. 18, 2020. Electronic comments must be submitted through regulations.gov under Docket ID NRCS-2019-0009. All written comments received will be publicly available on http://www.regulations.gov.    

NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule following public comment review.

NRCS provides producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement conservation practices through EQIP. Popular EQIP practices in California include enhanced irrigation efficiency, nutrient management, forest stand improvement, cleaner on-farm combustion engines, prescribed grazing, and practices related to water quality improvement. Implementing conservation practices can lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better wildlife habitat while improving agricultural operations.

EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis. Funding selections will be made after the final rule is published. For more information on how to sign up for EQIP in California, visit https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/ca/home/ or contact your local NRCS field office.

-NRCS-