The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order 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 or improved or created wildlife habitat.
Eligible program participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices, or activities like conservation planning, that address natural resource concerns on their land. Payments are made to participants after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP plan of operations are implemented. Contracts can last up to ten years in duration.
Applying for EQIP in Illinois
EQIP is available to producers or owners of eligible land with a natural resource concern. The land can be either in agricultural or forest production including producers engaged in livestock production.
Applications for EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis; however, Illinois NRCS has established two EQIP application deadlines on March 20, 2020 and April 17, 2020.
Illinois agricultural producers who submit a signed application, NRCS-CPA-1200 form, at their local NRCS field offices by the application deadline will be evaluated for funding consideration during that batching period.
Applicants must complete the NRCS-CPA-1200 application form available at their local field office or download the application and return the form to their local NRCS field office.
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 (AGI) limitation 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. However, starting a practice prior to a written contract obligation 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 2018 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 at least 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.
Illinois is committed to reaching out to Historically Underserved individuals and groups. Historically Underserved participants may also receive higher payment rates. 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, Illinois has identified the following priorities:
Improve soil health by adding organic matter, reducing compaction, and promoting soil organisms.
Reduce soil erosion by managing water runoff and increasing plant residue.
Improve water quality by reducing the sediments, nutrients and other contaminates from entering Illinois waterways.
Ranking Process and Criteria
The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) incorporates a program-neutral assessment with an integrated and efficient ranking tool to facilitate conservation delivery. Learn about the ranking process here.
The payment schedule is a list of practices and components used for the EQIP in Illinois. The list is all-inclusive and contains the practices, components, unit type, and payment rate at which the component is paid. The payment schedule provides many practice and component options. The NRCS planner will select the component that is best suited for the site conditions and applicant’s objective.
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.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
Through RCPP, NRCS seeks to co-invest with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes tied to the resource concerns they seek to address. Learn about RCPP here.