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Nebraska EQIP Allocation Process

Nationally, NRCS uses a competitive process to allocate EQIP funds to achieve the greatest conservation benefits in alignment with EQIP statutory priorities.  NRCS establishes National, State, and local priorities and uses scientifically-based ranking tools to assess and rank applications to determine which applications are to be funded.  The NRCS National Office establishes national priorities, and States must incorporate these national priorities along with State and local priorities into the ranking tool used at the local level in selecting applications for funding.

In Nebraska, EQIP funds are allocated to NRCS Administrative Areas based on Natural Resource District (NRD) boundaries (see map here) and Statewide funding pools.  The distribution of funds to each administrative area is determined using a resource-based allocation formula. At the State level, resource priorities are established by NRCS with recommendations by the State Technical Committee and priorities identified by the Local Working Groups, and other regional plans and initiatives.  NRCS also utilizes funding pools to target EQIP funding to priority resource concerns, such as soil erosion, water quality, livestock production, and the development of wildlife habitat.

Each application submitted for consideration in a given funding pool is ranked using scientifically-based assessment evaluation criteria and tools which provide a relative score that reflects the expected conservation benefit of the proposed project. State Conservationists have the authority to prioritize applications for ranking, which results in only the highest priority applications being ranked and considered for funding.  Applications are accepted from producers on a continuous basis; however, NRCS announces funding cutoff deadlines where all ranked applications within a funding pool are considered for funding based upon the ranking scores and availability of funds.  Nearly all funding pools are established each fiscal year to ensure environmentally and economically effective distribution of funding through a process of fair and open competition that addresses priority resource concerns.

When developing the allocation process for Nebraska, NRCS and the State Technical Committee sought a science-based resource assessment that federal, state and local units of government could use to focus financial and technical resources to the greatest need.  The primary resource concerns for Nebraska are: 

·        Soil Erosion on Cropland

·        Soil Erosion on Grassland/Range

·        Degraded Plant Condition on Grassland/Pasture (Undesirable plant productivity and Excessive Plant Pest Pressure)

·        Livestock Production Limitation (Inadequate livestock shelter)

·        Inefficient Use of Irrigation Water on Cropland

·        Water Quality Degradation (Excess nutrients and pathogens in surface and groundwater)

·        Soil Quality Degradation (Organic matter depletion, cropland/grassland/pasture)

 

The 2018 Farm Bill mandates at least 50 percent of the funding for livestock and 10 percent of the funding for wildlife, are met as national goals through funding pool opportunities established by State Conservationists.  Additional national funding requirements that must be met at the state level are: 5% for Socially Disadvantaged/Veteran producers, 5% for Beginning Farmer/Rancher, and 10% to target source drinking water protection practices.  The Nebraska EQIP allocation process reserves adequate funds to meet these national Farm Bill mandates and provides an initial allocation to each of the 23 local NRCS administrative areas, i.e. NRD areas.  The funds allocated to each NRD area include funds for specific priority resource concerns in the area and the opportunity for funding through the nationally mandated priorities.

The following Nebraska Statewide fund pools have been established to meet the Farm Bill and National mandates in fiscal year 2020:  

Statewide Fund Pools

Allocation $ Amount

Source Water Protection

10% of Allocation

Wildlife Initiative

10% of Allocation

Historically Underserved

10% of Allocation

Animal Feeding Operations

1,000,000

Conservation Activity Plans

200,000

High Tunnels

100,000

Organic

100,000

Tribal

100,000

Working Lands for Wildlife

100,000

Highly Erodible Land Treatment

500,000

Inefficient Energy

25,000

 

 

The Nebraska resource assessment data listed above is used to calculate the total of critical acres for each resource concern in each administrative areas.  The percentages used are based on the derived critical acres from the Nebraska Resource Assessment and illustrates each major statewide concern relative to the total resource concerns found in the state.

Resource Concern Ranking Categories

Derived Critical Acres Percent of Allocation Allocation $ Amount
Soil Erosion 13,921,289 23.1% TBD
Soil Quality Degradation 1,458,536 2.4% TBD
Excess Water   0.0%  
Water Quality Degradation 15,372,612 25.5% TBD
Degraded Plant Condition 6,879,003 11.4% TBD
Air Quality   0.0%  
Livestock Production Limitation 15,000,505 24.9% TBD
Inadequate habitat for Fish & Wildlife   0.0%  
Insufficient Water 7,656,306 12.7% TBD
TOTAL:      

*TBD = Resource Concern % multiplied by the final fund allocation

The allocation of funds to each local administrative area is based on the amount of resource concern critical acres within each area.  A large Administrative area with multiple categories of resource concerns receives more funding than a smaller area with limited resource concerns. 

Applications at the local level are selected for funding based on priority resource concerns identified by the Local Working Group and through the locally led conservation approach. The Local Working Groups, chaired by the Natural Resources District, meet regularly to provide information and recommendations on Farm Bill program implementation, including EQIP and other conservation programs.  Membership of the Local Working Group may include but is not limited to Federal, State, county, Tribal, or local government representatives.

This locally led process ensures conservation needs are developed using community stakeholder input. Conservation needs are assessed and used to help identify program funding needs and conservation practices at the local level, priority resource concerns and high priority areas needing assistance are identified and recommendations are gathered for USDA conservation program application and funding criteria, eligible practices, and payment rates.