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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

New for 2020

Beginning in fiscal year 2020, Kentucky NRCS will use Environmental Quality Incentives Program dollars to target specific project areas. This will increase the impact of each dollar spent to improve private farms and the communities they surround.

View an interactive map of projects.


The 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.

Kentucky Fiscal Year 2020 EQIP application batching cut off has been announced for:  

March 6, 2020


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. Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply, but applicants must:  

  • 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

Accepting Applications

EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application batching "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. To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit To apply for EQIP complete the Conservation Program Application Form and submit it to your local service center.

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.

Conservation Plans

Program applications are required to be supported by an NRCS approved conservation plan which provides documentation of the practices that could be used to address natural resource concerns.  NRCS will develop and provide program applicants with an approved conservation plan.  Producers may also apply for financial assistance to hire Technical Service Providers (TSP) to develop specialty plans called Conservation Activity Plans (CAP) to address certain land use activities or specific resource needs on your land.

NRCS works with the producer to develop a plan of operations that:

  1. Identifies the appropriate conservation practice or activities needed to address identified natural resource concerns on agricultural lands.
  2. Helps approved participants implement conservation practices and activities according to an approved EQIP plan of operations that is developed in conjunction with the producer that identifies the appropriate conservation practice or activities needed to address identified natural resource concerns. Conservation practices installed through EQIP are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions.

Notice to Applicants:  Any conservation practice started 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 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 of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.  Kentucky 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.

Environmental and Operational Benefits:  National and State Priorities

EQIP can provide financial and technical assistance to plan and design such measures as, but not limited to, the following: These and the many other measures included in EQIP can help producers accomplish a variety of operational goals, which may include:
  • Grazing management: fencing, stock water systems, pasture planting, prescribed grazing plans
  • Nutrient management: manure storage structures, planned nutrient applications, nutrient management plans
  • Pest management: crop and pest monitoring activities
  • Erosion control: grassed waterways, diversions, water and sediment control basins
  • Wildlife habitat enhancement: stream buffers, upland wildlife habitat establishment
  • Forestand management:  forest stand improvement, brush management, forest management plans
  • Energy conservation: seasonal high tunnels, building envelope improvement, energy management plans
  • Improvements to the long-term productivity and sustainability of an agricultural operation
  • Improved condition of crops and forage for livestock
  • Reduced costs for fuel, labor, fertilizers and pesticides
  • Energy efficient systems and field operations
  • Compliance with regulatory requirements


National Priorities

On-Farm Energy Initiative: NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. NRCS then uses audit data to develop energy conservation recommendations. Each AgEMP has a landscape component that assesses equipment and farming processes and a farm headquarters component that assesses power usage and efficiencies in livestock buildings, grain handling operations, and similar facilities to support the farm operation. 

Organic Initiative:  Provides financial assistance to help implement conservation practices for organic producers and those transitioning to organic to address natural resource concerns. It also helps growers meet requirements related to National Organic Program (NOP) requirements and certain program payment limitations. 

High Tunnel System Initiative:  NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels, which are, steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment, and better air quality due to fewer vehicles being needed to transport crops. Nearly 800 high tunnels have been planned for implementation in Kentucky through this Initiative since 2012.  Kentucky offers three fund accounts for the High Tunnel System Initiative.  The boundaries for these fund accounts are determined by the three Kentucky NRCS Administrative Area boundaries.  The three fund accounts allow like applications to compete against each other rather than all applications across the State competing together.  For more information see the High Tunnel Brochure.

Edge of Field Monitoring: Voluntary edge-of-field water quality monitoring enables agricultural producers and scientists to quantify the impacts of conservation work on water quality.

State Priorities

Wildlife Initiative:  The purpose of the Wildlife Initiative is to help participants develop fish and wildlife habitat on private agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land and Indian land. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to landowners and others to develop or enhance upland, wetland, riparian, and aquatic habitat areas on their property.

Forestland Initiative:  The 2008 Farm Bill placed increased emphasis on non-industrial private forestland that has been continued through the 2018 Farm Bill. The purpose of the Forestland Initiative is to focus on practices that will improve forest health; promote forest management; educate land users; and create enhance, and protect forestland bird habitat.

Southeast Kentucky Early Successional Habitat Initiative (SEKESH):  The purpose of the Southeast Kentucky Early Successional Habitat Initiative is to establish fish and wildlife habitat on private agricultural land and nonindustrial private forestland in a highly forested area of the State with a large potential for early successional habitat improvement. Many wildlife species either depend on or greatly benefit from areas of young forest in proximity to older more mature forest stands. However, early successional habitats are generally lacking within the initiative area. Emphasis will be placed on forest stand improvement practices with the objective of creating or maintaining early successional forest habitat to benefit a suite of wildlife species. This initiative is available in the following Kentucky counties: Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Clay, Elliott, Floyd, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Rockcastle, Whitley, and Wolfe.

Manure Management:  Through the Manure Management Initiative, Kentucky NRCS will assist Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) to manage waste generated by their livestock. The objective of this Initiative is to address water quality resource concerns created by the waste generated from AFOs. By offering financial assistance to construct storage facilities, this Initiative will improve water quality resources by providing waste storage during the winter months when the field conditions are not optimal for spreading waste.  In addition to waste storage facilities, this Initiative will offer financial incentives for producers to spread the waste generated by their operations according to the recommendations in their Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP). 

Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs): A Conservation Activity Plan or 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 and forest land.  A CAP can also address a specific resource need, such nutrient management or a herbicide resistance issue.   With a CAP plan, producers can then apply for financial assistance to implement the needed conservation practices.  Kentucky offers special fund accounts for applicants interested in CAPs.  There is a fund account to help Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) obtain a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) CAP for their operation as well as a fund account that offers all of the other Nationally eligible CAPs.  For more information see the National CAP Webpage.

Irrigation Water Management: Through the Irrigation Water Management Initiative, Kentucky NRCS will address the irrigation efficiency of existing irrigation systems on cropland. Applicants must have been irrigating with the current system for at least two of the last five years to meet the EQIP irrigation history requirement.  Applicants will also be required to have an Irrigation Water Management Plan, written by an NRCS certified Technical Service Provider (TSP), an NRCS Employee that has been trained to write Irrigation Water Management Plans, or an outside source whose plan has been determined to meet NRCS requirements.  The plan would need to document efficiency improvements that could be made to the existing system.  

Kentucky EQIP FY 2020 Fund Accounts and Ranking Criteria

General EQIP Screening Criteria

Fund Accounts


Pooling Area Cropland Accounts (See the Map of Kentucky Pooling Areas to see Pooling Area Boundaries across the State)

PA Cropland Ranking Criteria

Pooling Area Pastureland Accounts (See the Map of Kentucky Pooling Areas to see Pooling Area Boundaries across the State)

PA Pastureland Ranking Criteria

Beginning Farmer Account

Historically Underserved Ranking Criteria

Socially Disadvantaged Account

Historically Underserved Ranking Criteria

Limited Resource Producer Account

Historically Underserved Ranking Criteria

Organic Certified Account

Organic Ranking Criteria

Organic Transition Account

Organic Ranking Criteria

On-Farm Energy

On-Farm Energy Ranking Criteria

Area 1 High Tunnel System Account

High Tunnel System Ranking Criteria

Area 2 High Tunnel System Account

High Tunnel System Ranking Criteria

Area 3 High Tunnel System Account

High Tunnel System Ranking Criteria

Conservation Activity Plan Account

Conservation Activity Plan Ranking Criteria

Forestland Account

Forestland Ranking Criteria

Southeastern Kentucky Early Successional Habitat Initiative (SEKESH) Account

SEKESH Ranking Criteria

Wildlife Account

Wildlife Ranking Criteria

Manure Management

Manure Management Ranking Criteria

Irrigation Water Management

Irrigation Water Management Ranking Criteria


Kentucky Pooling Areas FY 2020


Other Helpful links (may open in new window)

State Contact: Deena Wheby, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, 859-224-7403