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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

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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.

Accepting Applications

There is currently no sign up deadline for 2018, however, applications are accepted on a continuous basis. Submit your application now to your local field office to be ready for the next sign up deadline.  Learn more here. 

EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application "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. The following document describes how to apply for Farm Bill programs or visit the following website: Get started with NRCS national page

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

To apply for EQIP, contact your local service center.

Eligibility

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.

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.

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.

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

The 2014 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. It provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services. Enhancements include increased payment rates and advance payments of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.

Vermont is committed to reaching out to 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.

National and State Priorities

The following national priorities, consistent with statutory resources concerns that include soil, water, wildlife, air quality, and related natural resource concerns, may be used in EQIP implementation:

  1. Reductions of nonpoint source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with total maximum daily loads (TMDL) where available; the reduction of surface and groundwater contamination; and the reduction of contamination from agricultural sources, such as animal feeding operations
  2. Conservation of ground and surface water resources
  3. Reduction of emissions, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and ozone precursors and depleters that contribute to air quality impairment violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards
  4. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
  5. Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
  6. Energy conservation to help save fuel, improve efficiency of water use, maintain production, and protect soil and water resources by more efficiently using fertilizers and pesticides and
  7. Biological carbon storage and sequestration

In addition, Vermont has identified the following priorities:

  1. Water Quality
  2. Soil Health
  3. Soil Erosion
  4. Forestry and Wildlife

Decision Making Process for EQIP

Input from Outside Groups, Agencies, and Citizens: The list of eligible practices in [State], payment rates and limits, eligible resource concerns, and state scoring criteria are developed based on input and recommendations from the State Technical Committee (STC). The STC is made up of representatives from various agribusinesses, producer groups, conservation organizations, and federal, state, and tribal government agency representatives.

The Local Work Group process and scoring criteria, are based on input from the counties in the Local Work Groups (LWG).

The priorities set at the state and county level are those that the STC and LWG respectively determined were of the greatest need and would have the greatest positive environmental impact. The scoring process at both the state and local level was developed in order to select those projects that would provide the greatest environmental benefit, and therefore provide the greatest public good.

Fiscal Year 2018 EQIP Deadlines

To apply for EQIP,your local service center Get Started with NRCS - Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease? NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. To learn how, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.

Vermont EQIP Funding Pools and Ranking Documents

 More information about CAPs is available in the National Conservation Activity Plan web site.

More Information

Vermont EQIP Fact sheet

Assistance for Organic (transitioning to organic) farmers in Vermont, in partnership with NOFA-VT, Fact Sheet

EQIP Fact Sheet

2018 EQIP Practices and Payment Amounts

2018 Practices Available by Funding Pool

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

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

Forms Needed to Signup:

The following document requires Acrobat Reader

2018 EQIP Application Form

2018 RCPP-EQIP Application Form

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.

2018 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 /getstartedwww.nrcs.usda.gov.

Program

Description

Application Cutoff Date

Additional Documents

RCPP - Vermont DEC Project for Lake Champlain Challenged Watersheds Forestry erosion issues in LCB Challenged Watersheds and Water Quality Issues in LCB

 

 

 

Continuous sign up

VT DEC Priority Areas Map

RCPP Fact Sheet

RCPP Forestry Handout

RCPP DEC FAQs

VT DEC Application Release Form

VT DEC Farmstead Screening

VT DEC Forestry Screening

VT DEC Ranking Questions

2018 VT RCPP-EQIP Practices and Payment Amounts

RCPP - VACD Project for Nutrient Management CAPs in the Lake Champlain Basin Nutrient Management Conservation Activity Plans in the Lake Champlain Basin

 

 

Continuous Sign Up

VACD Priority Areas Map

VT VACD Nutrient Management Plan (NM CAP) Screening

VT VACD Nutrient Management Plan (NM CAP) Ranking Tool

RCPP - Memphremagog Long Term Water Quality Partnership  

 

 

Continuous Sign Up

Memphremagog Screening, Ranking Questions, and Practice List

2018 VT RCPP-EQIP Practices and Payment Amounts

RCPP - Long Island Sound Resiliency Address resource concerns along rivers and streams in the Connecticut River watershed to improve water quality, improve habitat and increase flood resiliency.

 

 

 

Continuous Sign Up

Long Island Sound Resiliency Ranking Questions and Practice List

 

RCPP - Cold Hollow Woodlot Project Addressing resource concerns in the Enosburg and surrouding town on forest land.

 

Continuous Sign Up

RCPP CHC Screening

RCPP CHC Ranking Questions

RCPP - Young Forest Initiative Addressing resource concerns related to wildlife and water quality in the southern part of the state

 

Continuous Sign UP

RCPP WMI Ranking Questions

RCPP WMI Practice List

Conservation Activity Plans Conservation Plans for grazing, nutrient management, and many more!

 

Continuous Sign Up

National Conservation Activity Plan Web Page

Conservation Activity Plan Ranking Tool

Conservation Activity Plans Offered in 2018 and their Payment Amounts

General EQIP

EQIP applications may be submitted at any time with your local USDA Service Center. For more information, see 2017 Regular EQIP Funding Pool Descriptions below.

 

Continuous Sign Up

2018 Practices and Payment Amounts

VT Priority Watersheds

2018 Practices Available by Funding Pool

2018 EQIP Farmstead Screening

2018 EQIP CAP/Grazing/Cropland/HighTunnel Screening

2018 EQIP Beginning Farmer and Socially Disadvantaged Screening

2018 EQIP Forestry and Wildlife Screening

Lake Champlain Cropland Pool Ranking Tool

Lake Champlain Watersheds Farmstead Pool Ranking Tool

Lake Champlain Watersheds Grazing Pool Ranking Tool

Rest of State Cropland Pool Ranking Tool

Rest of State Farmstead Pool Ranking Tool

Rest of State Grazing Pool Ranking Tool

Statewide Beginning Farmer Pool Ranking Tool

Statewide Forestry and Wildlife Pool Ranking Tool

Statewide Socially Disadvantaged Pool Ranking Tool

Statewide High Tunnel and Specialty Crops Pool Ranking Tool

National EQIP Initiatives

Description

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.

Continuous Sign Up

On-Farm Energy Screening Worksheet

Energy Initiative Ranking Tool

Energy Conservation Plan Ranking Tool

EQIP Organic Initiative

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

Continuous Sign Up

Organic Self Certification Worksheet

National Organic Initiative Web Page

Certified Organic Ranking Tool

Organic Transition Ranking Tool

 

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 was selected for the National Water Quality Initiative in 2014.

Continuous Sign Up

NWQI National Web Page

State EQIP Initiatives

Description

Application Cutoff Date

Additional Documents

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.

continuous sign up

 

 

Vermont Regular Pool Program Descriptions

The following is basic information for the various funding pools that a participant can choose to enroll their 2018 EQIP application in. Priority resource concerns are mentioned in each funding pool description below.

All funding pools are subject to a $450,000 payment limitation, except for the organic initiative (see below). All payments, even EQIP payments scheduled for 2015 and beyond under 2014 Farm Bill contracts, will be factored in to determine the $450,000 payment limit for new FY2015 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.

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

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP EQIP) Funding Pools:

Lake Champlain RCPP Forestry Pool

 This pool is for any land owner of forested land in the Lake Champlain Basin. They do not have to have any conserved lands to be high priority. The practices available are Forest Trails and Landings (Practice 655), Mulching (Practice 484), Stream Crossings (Practice 578), Riparian Forest Buffer (Practice 391). The fund code for this pool in ProTracts is ‘Accelerated Implementation of Agriculture and For – Forestry Soil Erosion’

Lake Champlain RCPP Farmstead Pool

The Lake Champlain (VTDEC) RCPP Farmstead Funding Pool is for landowners of conserved agricultural lands in the Lake Champlain Basin. Only a portion of their land needs to be conserved for them to be eligible. Practices can be implemented on the entire acreage- including areas that are not conserved. If they own just one acre of conserved land, all the land they own is eligible. Agricultural practices available in this pool are listed on page three of the RCPP Ranking Guidance Document. Farmstead and agronomic are available, there does not need to be farmstead practices included in the application to have agronomic practices, and vice versa. All practices listed below are available, with any combinations necessary to address natural resource concerns.The fund code for this pool in ProTracts is ‘Accelerated Implementation of Agriculture and For – Farmstead and Other NonForestry Soil Ero Practices

RCPP VACD Nutrient Management Plan

This pool is for small farm operators in the St. Albans and Missisquoi Bay watersheds who are mechanically spreading manure on their fields and would like to develop a Nutrient Management Plan through the University of Vermont "Digging In" Nutrient Management Planning class with assistance from the local Natural Resources Conservation District.

RCPP Regional Memphremagog Long Term Water Quality Partnership

The Memphremagog RCPP program is focused on agricultural lands in the Memphremagog and Tomifobia River water-sheds in Vermont, with an emphasis on targeted subwatersheds showing high phosphorus loading as indicated by over a decade of water quality sampling results. The purpose of this program is to improve water quality by reducing phos-phorus and other nutrient loading from farm operations in these Basins. The program will help small farmers develop Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs), coordinate NMP updates with medium and large farms, and provide technical and financial assistance to implement recommended nonstructural best management practices. Educational opportunities will be offered through a partnership with University of Vermont Extension to help farms develop and integrate their own NMPs and Sterling College will offer innovative conservation practices workshops. Throughout the program, water quality sampling data will be monitored to track the success of conservation practices.

RCPP Cold Hollow Woodlot Project

The Cold Hollow to Canada Woodlot project will expand on an existing cross boundary management initiative. The Cold Hollow Woodlots Program initially engaged twelve landowners spanning over 2,000 acres in the town of Enosburg. RCPP will help expand this work to 50 landowners and 8,000 acres by adding woodlots in Richford and Montgomery, as well as serving the existing woodlot group in Enosburg. The effort will encourage Vermont's private forest owners to manage wildlife habitat, find solutions for the effects of climate change, and develop ways to help forests adapt to changing conditions.

RCPP WMI Young Forest Initiative for At-Risk Species

The RCPP Young Forest Initiative, led by the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), will help increase technical and financial assistance to non-industrial private forestland owners who implement practices outlined in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The goal is to increase the quantity and quality of young forest habitats. This support is critical, since young forest habitat is necessary to meet the critical needs of several recognized at-risk species.

Long Island Sound Watershed Development whole farm management certainty program

The RCPP LIS program, led by the Connecticut Council on Soil and Water Conservation will address excess nutrients that have been identified as teh primary cause of hypoxic conditions in Long Island Sound. The project will develop a comprehensive, whole farm management certainty program for farmers in teh are and will utilize both working lands and easement programs to improve soil health and nutrient management, establish community resiliency areas with a focus on enhancing riparian areas and institute a land protection program to protect agricultural and forest areas.

State Level Funding Pools:

Applicants applying under a state level funding pool compete state-wide for a contract.

Beginning Farmer Funding Pool

This funding pool is for those applicants who have self-certified on their application (NRCS-CPA-1200) that they are a Beginning Farmer individual and group. All practices and conservation activity plans offered in Vermont's EQIP are offered in this funding pool. A Beginning Farmer is 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.

  • 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: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/SLB_Farmer/
  • Veteran Farmer or Rancher - A Veteran Farmer or Rancher is a person who served in United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, including the reserve components thereof, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable, and who has not operated a farm or ranch; or has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years.

Socially Disadvantaged Funding Pool

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

  • 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

Specialty Crop Pool and Seasonal High Tunnel

Irrigation and associated practices are offered in this funding pool, as well as high tunnels. Composting for vegetable operations is also offered in the Specialty Crop Pool.

 

Forestry and Wildlife Funding Pool

The priority of the Forestry and Wildlife Pool is to address water quality resource concerns in the Lake Champlain basin. This pool also prioritizes 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. Conservation activity plans applicable to the forestland and/or wildlife land uses, except forest management plan, will be offered in this pool. CAPs will be ranked the highest priority as required by national policy. Forest Management Plans will be offered in the Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs) pool.

Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs)

Applicants wanting any CAP, except an agricultural energy CAP, must apply to this pool. Applicants interested in an agricultural energy CAP must apply to the Energy Initiative CAP Funding Pool. Click here for CAPs payment rates and other CAP information.

 

National Initiatives

Applicants applying under a national initiative funding pool compete state-wide for a contract.

Organic Initiative

This initiative provides special funding to organic growers and those transitioning to organic production. 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 watershed applicable Farmstead Pool.

On-Farm Energy Initiative

Offers an On-Farm Energy Conservation Assistance Plan (CAP). Also assists 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.

Watershed Prioritization in State Funding Pools:

There are three watershed locations that are a priority in EQIP for 2018. Applications located in one of these watersheds receive a higher ranking priority than applications located outside of one of these locations.

2018 EQIP Location of Priority Watersheds

Farmstead Pool

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. Practices to assist applicants with implementing their Land Treatment Plan are also included in this funding pool Applicants who also want to address other soil erosion concerns on their cropland or grazing management concerns can also be considered in the pools that address these resource concerns.

Cropland Pool

The purpose of the Cropland Pool is for operators who need to address soil erosion, soil health or water quality concerns by installing agronomic practices or buffers on their cropland. Cropland includes hay land that is part of a rotation schedule.

Pasture and Perennial Cropland Pool

The priority of this pool is to install grazing practices such as watering facilities, fence, animal trails and walkways and pipeline. Aquatic Organism Passage (aka: Fish Passage) is offered in this funding pool.

 

Nationally Announced Watershed Funding Pools

National Water Quality Initiative

The NWQI assists producers to address high-priority water resource concerns in small watersheds with streams or water bodies in one or more of the following categories (targeted waters). All practices offered in Vermont EQIP are offered in this pool. At a minimum, the Rock River Watershed will be included in the NWQI. The national office will announce a separate sign up period for this funding pool later in the year.

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 percent 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.

EQIP Final Rule

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

Find your local USDA Service Center 

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