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.
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 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.
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.
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 application cutoff dates. The application cutoff dates are listed below for the different funding pools.
Illinois agricultural producers who submit a signed application, NRCS-CPA-1200 form, at their local NRCS field offices by the application cutoff date will be evaluated for funding consideration for 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. After submitting an application, the applicant will also receive a copy of the NRCS-CPA-1202 Contract Appendix, explaining EQIP contract terms and conditions. Reviewing the contract appendix up front helps the applicant understand the requirements of the EQIP program. In addition, all applicants need to meet eligibility requirements in order to be an EQIP participant. Contact your local office to discuss eligibility criteria.
EQIP is a competitive process and EQIP applicants compete for funds in funding pools. The funding pools are established on a statewide or watershed basis. The various funding pool categories allow similar applications types to be grouped together when competing for funds.
In order to compete, EQIP applications are ranked using the ranking and supporting documents below. The local NRCS field office staff will work with the applicant to rank the application and plan the conservation practices. Through the process, NRCS will explain the steps and program expectations.
The Forest Management Implementation (FMI) statewide funding pool is for producers with non-industrial private forestland. The goal of the ranking is to address resource issues where forest-related products are produced.
The Grazing Land funding pool is available to applicants statewide that graze livestock. The program is to address natural resource concerns on operations involving the production, growing, raising, or reproducing of livestock.
A priority of EQIP is for the promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation. The Wildlife Habitat Conservation funding pool is available to Illinois producers who will restore, develop, or enhance wildlife habitat.
The Organic funding pools provides financial assistance to help implement conservation practices for organic producers or those transitioning to organic. The program addresses natural resource concerns and also helps producers meet requirements related to National Organic Program (NOP) requirements.
The specialty crop funding pool is to assist specialty crop producers to address soil, water, air, plant, and animal resource concerns. The funding pool is for non-commodity crops such as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops. The High Tunnel System practice is available in this funding pool.
The On-Farm Energy funding pool provides financial and technical assistance to help the producer implement energy conserving measures and practices. In addition, the program offers Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) which is a site-specific energy analysis of eligible farmsteads.
EQIP funding is available for the development of a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP). A CAP can be developed for producers to identify conservation practices needed to address a specific natural resource need. Typically, these plans are specific to certain types of land use such as transitioning to organic operations, grazing land, forest land, or can also address a specific resource need such a plan for management of nutrients
The Urban Ag funding pool for Cook County is aimed at individuals and groups operating in the Chicagoland area. The funding pool is to assist urban farmers producing fruits and vegetables address natural resource concerns. High tunnel systems (also known as hoop houses), nutrient and pest management, and pollinator habitat are a few of the practices offered.
NWQI helps producers implement conservation systems to reduce nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and pathogen contributions from agricultural land in the following watersheds:
Douglas Creek Watershed in St. Clair County
Crooked Creek-Bon Pas Watershed in parts of Richland, Wabash, Edwards, & Lawrence Counties
Lake Vermilion Watershed in Vermilion County
Lake De Revey Watershed in Vermilion County
Painter Creek Watershed in Vermilion County
Lake Bloomington – Money Creek in McLean County
Blue Mound – Money Creek in McLean County
Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI)
The Purpose of MRBI is to improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat within selected watersheds of the Mississippi River Basin. In Illinois the following watersheds have been chosen:
Clinton Lake – Portions of DeWitt, McLean and Piatt Counties
Crow Creek West/Clear Creek – Portions of Bureau, LaSalle, Marshall, Putnam and Stark Counties
Upper Macoupin Creek – Portions of Macoupin County
Vermilion Headwaters – Portions of Ford, Iroquois, Livingston and McLean Counties
This fund category is available statewide. The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project is a multi-state effort focused on increasing monarch habitat on private lands through plantings of milkweed and nectaring forbs as well as managing pesticide use in proximity to monarch habitat. A screening tool is used to prioritize applications in this fund category.
Illinois contributes 20% of the Nitrogen and 11% of the Phosphorus, yet only 7% of the water to the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River. The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy identifies the Macoupin Creek HUC 8 Watershed as one of the three highest P-yielding watersheds and outlines a voluntary approach to stemming nutrient loss through widespread adoption of agricultural conservation management practices. With little new funding, public-private partnerships will be critical for implementation, and such a partnership was recently formed in the Upper Macoupin Creek sub watershed. Ongoing activities include farmer and non-operator landowner outreach (field days, workshops and producer interviews), soil transect surveys and water quality monitoring, and enrollment of producers in state and federal cost share programs to implement conservation practices on agricultural and forested private lands.
BMP Implementation for Nutrient & Sediment Loss Reduction in Macon County, Illinois
This project addresses nutrient and sediment loss on ag lands in the Sangamon River Watershed. The project will measure outcomes, documenting the number of practices installed on the land and estimating pollutant load reductions for each site using EPA’s Region 5 Model. The Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and its partners will determine the effectiveness of newer edge-of-field practices and their ability to reduce nitrate loss through subsurface drainage. NRCS awarded this project $600,000 in EQIP financial and technical assistance funding over the 5-year period.
Shorebird Conservation Acreage via Drainage Water Runoff Control (SCARC)
This project, led by the University of Illinois, will install Drainage Water Management (DWM) in ag fields across portions of Central Illinois. This area, a primary stopover location for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl, hosts nearly the entire population of American Golden –Plover (Pluvialis dominica), a species of conservation concern. The project uses DWM to provide temporary habitat for these migrating species. Project counties are Champaign, Christian, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Shelby, and, Vermilion. NRCS awarded this project $500,000 in EQIP financial and technical assistance funding over the 5-year period.
Improving Oak-Hickory Forestland Health in Illinois
The Illinois Forestry Partnership will address the decline of trees species diversity, specifically the lack of oak regeneration, in Illinois forests. The oak-hickory forest type has been reduced by 16% since 1962 and this reduction will continue if oaks remain underrepresented in the younger age classes. This decline is the result of fire suppression; impacts of exotic/invasive herbs, shrubs, vines and trees; and a lack of applied management strategies to address soil health, water quality, and soil erosion resource concerns on nonindustrial private forest land to restore the appropriate forest cover in the oak-hickory ecosystem. The project will focus on four target areas, covering 37 counties in the State and representing 1.1 million acres of oak-hickory forest type, about half of the remaining ecosystem.
The proposal is located in the Critical Conservation Area, Mississippi River Basin and focuses on the priority/impaired Illinois River basin watershed lying within the boundaries of Marshall and Putnam Counties along the Big bend of the Illinois River. The project will employ an overarching approach of melding the application of best management practices that address soil erosion, soil health and inadequate habitat for fish and wildlife.
The payment schedule is a list of practices and components used for the EQIP and RCPP-EQIP programs 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.