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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

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Introduction

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers 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 increasing weather volatility.

Accepting Applications-Next batching deadline in Vermont is April 6, 2020. Learn more here.

Sign up now! Keep scrolling down for more information about funding pools and funding opportunities. 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.

How it Works

This voluntary conservation programs helps producers make conservation work for them.  Together, NRCS and producers invest in solutions that conserve natural resources for the future while also improving agricultural operations.

Through EQIP, NRCS provides agricultural producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement improvements, or what NRCS calls conservation practices.  Using these practices can lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better wildlife habitat, all while improving agricultural operations.  Through EQIP, you can voluntarily implement conservation practices, and NRCS co-invests in these practices with you.

Benefits

Some of these benefits include:

  • Reduction of contamination from agricultural sources, such as animal feeding operations.
  • Efficient utilization of nutrients, reducing input costs and reduction in nonpoint source pollution.
  • Increased soil health to help mitigate against increasing weather volatility and improved drought resiliency.

2018 Farm Bill EQIP Updates

Historically underserved (HU) participants are eligible for advance payments to help offset costs related to purchasing materials or contracting through EQIP.  HU participants may elect to receive an advance of not less than 50 percent of the EQIP conservation practice payment amount.  If the participant elects to receive the advance payment, the funds must be expended within 90 days of receiving the advance.

The 2018 Farm Bill expanded eligibility regarding with whom NRCS can enter into an EQIP contract.  NRCS may enter into EQIP contracts with water management entities when they are supporting a water conservation or irrigation efficiency project.  These entities are defined as State, irrigation district, ground water management district, acequia, land grant-merced, or similar entity.

The 2018 Farm Bill requires a national 10 percent of mandatory program funding be targeted towards source water protection.  States will identify priority source water protection areas (SWPA) and may offer increased incentives and higher payment rates for practices that address water quality and/or water quantity.  

Beginning in 2020, States may provide increased payment rates for high-priority practices.  In consultations with the State Technical Committee, State Conservationists may designate up to 10 practices to be eligible for increased payments.  Eligible high-priority practices include those that address specific causes of ground or surface water impairment relating to excessive nutrients, address the conservation of water to advance drought mitigation and declining aquifers, meets other environmental priorities and other priority resource concerns identified in habitat or other area restoration plans, or is geographically targeted to address a natural resource concern in a specific watershed.

EQIP Incentive Contracts

The 2018 Farm Bill introduced EQIP incentive contracts to expand resource benefits to producers through incentive practices such as cover crops, transition to resource conserving crop rotations and precision agriculture technologies along with a similarly broad suite of incentive practices for ranchers and non-industrial private forest operators.  Every region within a State will have identified high-priority areas and each of these areas will target up to three priority resource concerns by land use.  In addition to the payment for practice implementation, incentive contracts offer annual payments to address operations and maintenance costs as well as foregone income.  EQIP incentive contracts can be a stepping stone for producers between EQIP classic and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contracts.

You can visit the 2018 Farm Bill Programs page for for more information about other NRCS conservation opportunities.

EQIP Initiatives

Targeted EQIP financial assistance is available through general EQIP, and several other initiatives. These initiatives address priority natural resource concerns on the most vulnerable lands, target conservation assistance in high priority watersheds, or help stimulate the development and adoption of innovation and technology. Learn about Landscape Conservation Initiatives here.

How To Get Started

To learn more about EQIP, contact your local NRCS office. An NRCS conservationist will visit you and evaluate the natural resources on your land. NRCS will then present a variety of conservation practices or system alternatives to help you address those concerns or management goals to improve or protect the natural resource conditions on your land. Please visit the Apply for EQIP page for more information on to how apply.

Vermont EQIP Funding Pools and Ranking Documents

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

More Information

EQIP Fact Sheet

Program Ranking Criteria

Practices and Payment Amounts are available on the Payment Schedules Webpage

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:

Application forms can be downloaded at the eForms Webpage

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, provided that the practice was not started when the waiver application is made.

2020 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

 

 

 

Emergency Drought Assistance

Practices to livestock operations in Franklin, Addison, Chittenden, Washington, Lamoille, Rutland, Caledonia and Orleans for installing practices to address drought conditions and addressing livestock production limitation - inadequate water resource concerns.

 

 

 

The deadline to apply for this funding pool has passed.

Drought Pool State Bulletin (provides information on practices being offered and other information)

Drought Map

Drought Screening Worksheet

Other Sources of Funding to Offset Costs for Mitigating Drought

Early Start Waiver Request Participant Letter Template

2019 EQIP Practices and Payment Amounts are available on the Vermont Payment Schedules page

Emergency Drought Ranking Tool

 

 

 

RCPP - Vermont DEC Project for Lake Champlain Challenged Watersheds

 

 

Forestry erosion issues in LCB Challenged Watersheds and Water Quality Issues in LCB

 

 

 

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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

2019 RCPP Practices and Payment Amounts are available on the Vermont Payment Schedules page

RCPP - Memphremagog Long Term Water Quality Partnership Addressing resource concerns in the Lake Memphremagog watershed

 

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Memphremagog Screening, Ranking Questions, and Practice List

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.

 

 

 

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Long Island Sound Resiliency Ranking Questions

 

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

 

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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

 

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RCPP WMI Ranking Questions

RCPP WMI Practice List

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

 

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National Conservation Activity Plan Web Page

Conservation Activity Plan Ranking Tool

 

Specialty Crop and High Tunnels

 

High Tunnels and associated practices

 

 

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Statewide High Tunnel and Specialty Crops Pool Ranking Tool

 

General EQIP

EQIP applications may be submitted at any time with your local USDA Service Center. For more information, see 2018 Regular EQIP Funding Pool Descriptions below.

 

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VT Priority Watersheds Map

Lake Champlain Cropland Pool Ranking Tool

Lake Champlain Farmstead Pool Ranking Tool

Lake Champlain 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.

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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.

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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 (NWQI) 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. In 2019, Hungerford Brook and East Creek are also included in the NWQI.

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NWQI National Web Page

Map of NWQI Watersheds in Vermont

NWQI Screening

Rock River Ranking Questions

Hungerford Brook Ranking Questions

East Creek Ranking Questions

 

Vermont Regular Pool Program Descriptions

The following is basic information for the various funding pools that a participant can choose to enroll their 2019 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):

Lake Champlain RCPP Forestry

 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

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 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 the primary cause of hypoxic conditions in Long Island Sound. The project will develop a comprehensive, whole farm management certainty program for farmers in the 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.

 

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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Vermont NRCS Farm Bill Homepage