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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

EQIP Web AssetOverview

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary, conservation program administered by NRCS that can provide financial and technical assistance to install conservation practices that address natural resource concerns.

For More Information

For more information about EQIP, how to apply and program eligibility, interested applicants should contact a NRCS field office in the county which you own land or where you have an agricultural operation. 

Submitting an Application

Any interested farmer, rancher, or landowner may submit an application for participation in EQIP.  The State Conservationist has established sign-up dates to select the highest ranked applications for funding based on the NRCS ranking process, contract approval is dependent on program eligibility determinations.

Financial Assistance

NRCS can provides financial assistance to help implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns or opportunities to help save energy, improve soil, water, plant, air, animal and related resources on agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land. The availability and amount of financial assistance can vary between practice payment scenarios.  Each year, NRCS re-evaluates the amount of financial assistance payment rates.

Ranking Process

The State Conservationist, in consultation with the State Technical Committee has developed ranking criteria to prioritize and subsequently fund applications addressing priority natural resource concerns in California. EQIP funding decisions are based on an evaluation process that includes pre-screening and ranking criteria. Pre-screening is used to prioritize assistance based on factors such as a history of contract compliance. NRCS uses the Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) to assess the site vulnerability, existing conditions, and identify potential resource concerns on a unit of land. After CART assessment, NRCS uses CART Ranking to evaluate an application in all applicable ranking pools.

Special Initiative Targeting Cover Crops

NRCS will provide $6.8 million in fiscal year 2022 for the utilization of Cover Crops on agricultural land throughout California as part of a targeted effort to improve soil health through EQIP. Cover crops can provide a multitude of benefits including reduction of soil erosion, increasing soil organic matter, managing soil moisture, suppressing weeds, and increasing biodiversity. Through this voluntary conservation program, NRCS can support the goals of agricultural producers throughout the state and increase the critical benefits that cover crops provide.

This initiative will accelerate such outcomes by incentivizing the implementation of conservation practice standard 340 Cover Crop through a rapid and streamlined contracting process. Applicants must have farm records established with their local Farm Service Agency and meet all eligibility criteria to be considered for selection.

EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts (CIC)

The new Conservation Incentive Contracts is available to address high-priority conservation and natural resources concerns. Visit the EQIP CIC webpage for more information.

California EQIP Ranking Pools

Watershed-Level Water Conservation and Groundwater Recharge

The Watershed-Level Water Conservation and Groundwater Recharge fund pool supports efforts for both watershed-level water conservation throughout the state and a new pilot program dedicated to groundwater recharge in a select group of counties. Both target collaboration with Water Management Entities (WMEs) in relation to water conservation.

Southern Border Initiative The Southern Border Initiative extends 25 miles north of the state border with Mexico and is available only in San Diego County and Imperial County to address damages to fields and farming infrastructure. 
 
National Air Quality Initiative

The National Air Quality Initiative ranking pool is designed to help agricultural producers meet air quality compliance requirements and offer funding opportunities to support practices related to on-farm mobile engines to helps achieve and maintain the health- and welfare-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in California.

National On-Farm Energy Initiative

The purpose of the National On-Farm Energy Initiative ranking pool is to specifically address energy conservation through development of an agricultural energy management plan (AgEMP) and practice implementation.

National Water Quality Initiative

The National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) was established as a joint initiative with the NRCS and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address agricultural sources of water pollution, including nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and pathogens related to agricultural production and in priority watersheds.

National Organic Initiative

Authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, EQIP includes provisions to provide opportunities for organic producers to address natural resource concerns related to organic production as well as requirements related to the National Organic Program (NOP) requirements.

Catastrophic Fire Recovery

The Catastrophic Fire Recovery ranking pool can provide immediate resource protection in areas burned by catastrophic fires on non-industrial private forestland (NIPF), grazing lands and croplands.

Forest Tree Mortality

The Forest Tree Mortality ranking pool can provide immediate resource protection in drought-affected forestlands where elevated levels of forest insect tree mortality have occurred or where forest insects are an imminent threat to forestlands.

Prioritized treatment areas include non-industrial private forestlands in Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Lake, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Madera, Nevada, Placer, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Tulare, or Tuolumne counties.

Conservation Activity Plan

A Conservation Activity Plan or CAP can be developed for producers to identify conservation practices needed to address a specific natural resource need.

With a CAP plan, producers can then apply for financial assistance to implement the needed conservation practices.

High Tunnel System

Through the High Tunnel System ranking pool NRCS can assist producers to extend the growing season for high value crops in an environmentally safe manner.

The initiative has the potential to assist producers in addressing a resource concern by extending the growing season, improving soil quality, and reducing nutrient and pesticide transport.

Joint Chiefs’ Forestry Restoration Partnership

The United States Forest Service (USFS) and the NRCS have entered into a multi-year partnership to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems where public and private lands.

WaterSMART

Managing water resources in the American West can be challenging. Drought, aging infrastructure, and environmental requirements can strain existing resources. Through WaterSMART, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and NRCS target funding to high priority water delivery agencies and on-farm irrigation improvements to better manage limited water resources under varying conditions.

Working Lands for Wildlife

The Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) Initiative is an effort between the NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that leverages capabilities and resources, targets assistance where it is most needed, cooperatively engages state and local partners, and works collaboratively with agricultural producers, forest land managers, and Tribes. NRCS and FWS have selected two at-risk species in California whose decline can be reversed given sufficient resources and landowner participation.

Declining Species Wildlife Habitat

Through the Declining Species Wildlife Habitat ranking pool NRCS can provide financial and technical assistance to agricultural operators who want to create, improve or enhance fish or wildlife habitat for declining species on farms, ranches and non-industrial forestlands.

Wildlife-Friendly Livestock Pond

Through the Wildlife-Friendly Livestock Pond ranking pool NRCS targets financial assistance funds for the implementation of conservation practices on eligible agricultural operations to support aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats for California Red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) and California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense).

California Air Quality

The California Air Quality ranking pools are designed to help agricultural producers meet air quality compliance requirements and offer funding opportunities to support practices that reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC), and particulate matter (PM) emissions from agricultural sources helps achieve and maintain the health- and welfare-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in California.

Historically Underserved

The farm bill continues to address the unique circumstances and concerns of historically underserved farmers to provide for voluntary participation, offers incentives and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services.

  • Beginning Farmers/Ranchers
  • Socially Disadvantaged Farmers/Ranchers

Tribal

Tribes often have different conservation priorities than other producers and tribal culturally based priorities such as the management of traditional Native American food and fiber plants are not priorities for mainstream producers. There are 109 Federally Recognized American Indian Tribes in California; and, at least 69 Non-Federally Recognized Tribes in California petitioning for federal recognition (BIA).

Regional

Locally-led conservation is based on the principle that community stakeholders are best suited to identify and resolve local natural resource problems. Through the locally-led process, Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) and the NRCS  work together to prioritize conservation needs at the local level. The word “local” can mean a county, a portion of a county, a watershed, a multicounty region, or whatever geographic area is best suited to address the resource conservation needs identified.

California’s regional, locally-led pools are multi-county ranking and ranking pools based on similar geographic, landscape climate, operation-type and resource conservation needs.

Interested Applicants

For more information about EQIP, how to apply and program eligibility, interested applicants should contact a NRCS field office in the county which you own land or where you have an agricultural operation. 

Visit https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/ to find the NRCS representative for your county.
 


Program Contact

Jae Lee, Acting Programs Specialist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Davis State Office, California
Phone: 951-323-7359
Email: Jae.Lee@usda.gov
 

Updated: 02/28/2022