From weather to pests, each American farmer faces a unique set of challenges. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural and forestry producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, and improved or created wildlife habitat.
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.
Program at a Glance
To get started, NRCS first works one-on-one with you to develop a conservation plan that meets your goals and vision for the land. This becomes a roadmap for which conservation practices best meet your needs.
Financial assistance covers part of the costs from implementing conservation practices. NRCS offers about 200 practices depending on where your land is located. These practices are geared towards working farms, ranches and forests and provide producers with many options for conservation.
How to Apply
The best way to learn if EQIP is a good fit for you is by contacting your local NRCS office. If you choose to move forward, your local NRCS conservationist will guide you through applying for the program.
EQIP is open to all eligible agricultural producers and submitted applications may be considered or evaluated in multiple funding pool opportunities. Payment rates for conservation practices are reviewed and set each fiscal year.
Each district conservationist working with a local work group has established local resource concerns, practices, and an application ranking process to prioritize applications for funding. Applications for EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis. However, each locality has a cutoff date for ranking applications, the first of which was Oct. 19, 2018 for fiscal year 2019 applications. A second statewide cutoff date to rank additional new 2019 applications was established for March 15, 2019. NRCS may establish local, minimum ranking cutoff levels for funding selection. Use the "Link to County EQIP Information" for details on the county EQIP information. Contact your local NRCS Field Office for additional information.
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.
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.
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.
Note: Starting a practice 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, 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.
Iowa 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:
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
Conservation of ground and surface water resources
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
Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
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
Biological carbon storage and sequestration
In addition, Iowa has identified the following priorities:
Surface and subsurface water quality related to the presence of excessive nutrients and organics related to livestock production by animal feeding operations on open feedlots
Plant condition and management to protect/improve pastureland, soil erosion control.
Wildlife management to protect at risk wildlife species.
Decision Making Process for EQIP
Iowa NRCS, through the state technical committee, requested and received input on resource concerns, practices needed to treat the resource concerns, financial incentives and EQIP implementation. The State Technical Committee is a broad-based group of public and private agencies interested in natural resources protection, including agricultural commodity and agribusiness interests, federal, state and local agencies and environmental groups. The committee meets periodically to advise USDA-NRCS on the implementation of conservation programs in Iowa. Local work groups function similarly in each level of the Soil and Water Conservation District.
The majority of EQIP funds will be distributed through Iowa's 100 NRCS field offices. These funds are distributed based on the:
percent of agricultural land in the county with impaired waters due to agricultural concerns (as identified by Section 303(d) of Clean Water Act)
number of livestock in the county
soil types with a Land Capability Class IIe and greater
acres needing wildlife habitat conservation systems
Statewide guidance to local work groups includes:
EQIP financial assistance for eligible practices is based on a payment schedule. For the list of eligible practices in individual counties, go to: Link to County EQIP Information.
Property line fences which the applicant has control of may be eligible for EQIP financial assistance, if needed as part of a grazing system.
Existing livestock facilities with an untreated resource concern are eligible for financial assistance for treatment of livestock waste. (New livestock facilities are not eligible.)
If a waste storage facility maximum payment is established at the local level, it cannot be less than $50,000.
Contracts that include treatment of livestock waste require a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) be developed prior to installation of the first practice. Contracts that include forestry practices require a Forest Management Plan prior to installation of the first practice. Contracts that include practices to convert to organic farming require an Organic Management Plan prior to installation of the first practice. All practices (contracted or not contracted) included in the management plans must be fully applied.
Payments for land management practices are to be limited to the minimum amount necessary to encourage the producer to apply the practice and are limited to no more than 3 years of payments.
Limited Resource Producers, Beginning Farmers, Tribal Farmers and Socially Disadvantaged Producers are eligible for a higher payment rate.
A signup date to batch EQIP applications for the Midwest Ag Water Quality Initiative has been established for June 21, 2019. Participating counties include: Buena Vista, Pocahontas, Sac, Calhoun, Webster, Hamilton, Hardin, Carroll, Greene, Boone, Story, Marshall, Guthrie, Dallas, Polk, Jasper, Adair, Madison, Warren, Marion, Mahaska, Keokuk, Clarke, Lucas, Worth, Mitchell, Floyd, Chickasaw, Franklin, Butler, Bremer, Grundy, Black Hawk, Buchanan, Tama, Benton and Linn.
Eligible practices for the Midwest Ag Water Quality Initiative will be most effective in nutrient reduction and improving soil health. These practices include: Nutrient Management, Drainage Water Management, Conservation Cover, Constructed Wetland, Denitrifying Bioreactor, Structure for Water Control, Saturated Buffer, Cover Crop, Critical Area Planting, No-till, and Subsurface Drain.
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.
NRCS has implemented a broad spectrum of initiatives since January of 2009. These initiatives enable NRCS to more effectively address priority natural resource concerns by delivering systems of practices, primarily to the most vulnerable lands within geographic focus areas.
EQIP Drought Relief for Southern Iowa Livestock Producers
In the southeast part of Iowa, along the Missouri border, Iowans are experiencing prolonged drought conditions. Reduced water supplies in pastures have become an issue with little runoff. According to the US Drought Monitor, several counties are under severe drought conditions. As a result, NRCS is offering special incentive payment rates for conservation practices that support livestock watering and forage production in these counties. Contact your local NRCS office for details. More information about the signup:
If you want to learn more about EQIP, you can contact your local NRCS office. Your 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.
Once you have chosen the right conservation practices for your land, you may be offered an EQIP contract to receive financial assistance for the cost of implementing certain practices. Payment rates for conservation practices are reviewed and set each fiscal year.