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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

EQIP BannerThe Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program that helps agricultural producers in a manner that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. Through EQIP, agricultural producers receive financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices that optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural land.

Accepting Applications

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.

Learn how to Get Started with NRCS

To apply for EQIP, contact your local service center.

CPA-1200 NRCS Conservation Program Application (PDF, 49KB) 

Eligibility

Agricultural producers and owners of non-industrial private forest land and Tribes are eligible to apply for EQIP. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forest land and other farm or ranch lands.

Applicants must:

  1. Control or own eligible land
  2. Comply with adjusted gross income limitation (AGI) provisions
  3. Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements
  4. Develop an NRCS EQIP plan of operations

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply.

Participant Responsibilities

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.

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.

Colorado 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, Colorado has identified the following priorities:

  • Water Quality and Quantity: irrigation systems, water control structures and irrigation water management
  • Grazing management: fencing, stockwater systems, range and pasture planting
  • Nutrient management: manure storage structures, planned nutrient applications, soil testing
  • Soil Health: conservation crop rotation, cover crops and conservation tillage
  • Wildlife habitat enhancement: buffer practices, upland wildlife habitat establishment
  • Forest Health: forest timber removal and woody residue treatment

Decision Making Process for EQIP

Input from Outside Groups, Agencies, and Citizens: The list of eligible practices in Colorado, payment rates and limits, eligible resource concerns, and state scoring criteria are developed based on input and recommendations from the State Technical Committee (STC). The STC is made up of representatives from various agribusiness, producer groups, conservation organizations, and federal, state, and tribal government agency representatives.

The priorities set at the state and county level are those that the STC and LWG respectively determined were of the greatest need and would have the greatest positive environmental impact. The scoring process at both the state and local level was developed in order to select those projects that would provide the greatest environmental benefit, and therefore provide the greatest public good.

Fiscal Year 20189 EQIP Deadlines

Applications submitted by October 19, 2018 will be evaluated to be considered for funding in fiscal year (FY) 2019. Applications received after that date will be accepted and evaluated for future rounds of funding.

Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply, or visit Get Started with NRCS.  

General EQIP​ Screening

Colorado EQIP Funding Pools/Ranking Documents and Screening Tools

Air Quality Initiative | Conservation Activity Plan | High Tunnel | National Water Quality Initiative | On-Farm Energy | Organic Initiative |  Strikeforce | WLFW Cutthroat Trout |  WLFW Sage Grouse Initiative | WLFW Southwestern Willow Flycatcher  |  Disaster Relief                                                     

Colorado Funding Pool

(links to more information)

Description

FY19 Ranking and Screening Criteria

Air Quality Initiative (AQI)

The CO Air Quality Initiative seeks to address nitrogen (N) loss to the atmosphere in an effort to reduce air pollution and deposition. The key driving force behind this is the N deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) where the tundra areas above tree line have shown large increases in N deposition, which has altered
the plant communities from moss and moss-like plants to grass and grass-like plants. This change is a violation of NPS park classification where parks must be maintained or improved based on the condition at time of designation as a National Park. Agriculture, especially in eastern and northeastern Colorado, has been identified as a significant contributor to nitrogen deposition in RMNP. 

Eligible Land Uses:
Crop, Farmstead, Forest, Pasture, Range

Colorado AQI Eligible Counties 

AQI Screening

Conservation Activity Plan (CAP)

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 kinds 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.

 

CAPS 

 

High Tunnel

The purpose of the High Tunnel System for crops is to assist producers to extend the growing season for high value crops in an environmentally safe manner. The practice has the potential to assist producers to address resource concerns by improving plant quality, improving soil quality, and reducing nutrient and pesticide transport.

High Tunnel Screening 

National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI)

The National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) is a joint initiative with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address sources of water pollution including nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and pathogens related to agricultural production. Watersheds are selected to receive targeted, long –term investment to accelerate voluntary conservation efforts to improve water quality.

NWQI Upper Grape Creek Watershed Map

Eligible Land Uses: Crop, Forest, Range, Pasture, Farmstead

NWQI Screening 

On-Farm Energy

The Agricultural Act of 2014 Section 2201 (16 U.S. Code Section 3839aa) authorizes the use of EQIP to address energy conservation. The initiative is designed to assist producers in two ways:

  1. Identify ways to reduce energy use on their farms through development of a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) 128 Agricultural Energy Management Plan (AgEMP), also known as an on- farm energy audit.
  2. Provide assistance to implement various recommended measures using conservation practice standards that address inefficient use of on-farm energy.

Eligible Land Uses:
Crop, Pasture, Farmstead, Range Approved

On-Farm Energy Screening

Organic Initiative

Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) NOI, NRCS will assist eligible producers with installation of conservation practices on agricultural operations related to organic production. NRCS has determined that this definition includes certified organic producers and producers who are transitioning to become certified organic. Eligible applicants also include producers who fall under the exemption category in the National Organic Program (NOP) regulation.

 

  • Certified organic producers must provide NRCS with a copy of their USDA NOP organic certificate or proof of good standing from a USDA-accredited certifying agent; certification must be maintained for the life of the contract.
  • Exempt producers who are selling less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products are exempt from NOP’s certification. Exempt organic producers are eligible for the EQIP Organic Initiative provided that they self-certify that they agree to develop and implement an organic system plan (OSP) as required by the NOP. Applications should be ranked with transitioning producers.
  • Transitioning to organic must self-certify that they agree to develop and implement an OSP as required by the NOP.

Eligible Land Uses:
Crop, Forest, Range, Pasture, Farmstead

Self Certification

Organics screening

Strikeforce

Through StrikeForce, NRCS is working with more farmers and ranchers than ever in communities that face persistent poverty. Specific funding is being used to increase awareness and use of USDA programs in historically underserved customer areas.

Eligible Land Uses:
Associated Agriculture, Crop, Farmstead

Eligible Counties:
Bent, Otero, and Prowers

Arkansas River Selenium Screening

WLFW Cutthroat Trout

Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) is a partnership 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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have selected at-risk species whose decline can be reversed given sufficient resources and landowner participation. Working Lands for Wildlife will promote voluntary, incentive-based conservation on private and Tribal lands.

Through this Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) effort NRCS Colorado is working with landowners and partner organizations to increase drought resiliency and habitat conditions across the native cutthroat trout landscape to benefit agricultural operations, rural communities and fish and wildlife habitat. Project partners are working together to develop on-the-ground projects that strategically restore stream and riparian functions, protect important cold water springs, streams and groundwater exchange, and enhance floodplain wet meadow habitats, all of which will improve stream flows and conditions for the agricultural community and wildlife. These projects will also benefit other sensitive species like the yellow-billed cuckoo and the Colorado pike minnow that depend on these healthy systems.


Three native cutthroat trout species occur in Colorado and are part of this initiative:

  • Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii pleuriticus)
  • Greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki stomias)
  • Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii virginalis)

Eligible Land Uses:
Crop, Forest, Range, Farmstead, Pasture, Associated Ag. Lands, Water, Designated Protected Area

Cutthroat Trout Eligible Counties Map

Cutthroat Trout Screening

WLFW Sage Grouse Initiative

Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) is a partnership 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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have selected at-risk species whose decline can be reversed given sufficient resources and landowner participation. Working Lands for Wildlife will promote voluntary, incentive-based conservation on private and Tribal lands.

This Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) initiative focuses on coordination with ranchers to improve habitat for sage-grouse and promote healthy grazing land conservation practices.

Sage Grouse Initiative funds must be used to address the primary sage grouse resource concerns to reduce threats to sage-grouse habitat and improve rangeland health and stability.


Eligible Land Uses:
Crop, Forest, Range, Farmstead, Pasture

SGI Eligible Counties Map

SGI Screening

SGI Ranking

WLFW Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) is a partnership 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 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have selected at-risk species whose decline can be reversed given sufficient resources and landowner participation. Working Lands for Wildlife will promote voluntary, incentive-based conservation on private and Tribal lands.

EQIP SWFI funds must be used to create, improve, and expand the habitat and current range of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.

Eligible Land Uses:
Crop, Forest, Range, Farmstead, Pasture

SWFI Eligibility Map

Southwest Willow Flycatcher Screening

Disaster Relief

EQIP Funding is available to help private landowners impacted by the 2018 wildfires across Colorado. 

Eligible Measures Include:
Replacing or restoring critical irrigation systems, replacing windbreaks and shelterbelts, rebuilding fences, protecting and restoring scorched grazing lands, and implementing various conservation measures to mitigate losses. 

Fire Recovery Screening

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Eligible Practices and Payment Rates 

The list of eligible practices and rates are provided in the 2019 Payment Schedule. The Payment Schedule identifies practice payment limits that may apply and conditions where the practices may apply.  Contact your local service center for assistance in determining which payment rate would apply to individual projects.

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