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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Fiscal Year 2021 EQIP Implementation just around the corner-
 
The ranking cut-off date for county, local emphasis areas, and statewide fund pools set for January 29, 2021.
 
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Eligibility

Individuals engaged in livestock, crop or forest production are eligible to apply. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pasture, and private non-industrial forestland.

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
Notification:  Starting a practice prior to written contract approval will result in the ineligibility of that practice for EQIP assistance unless a waiver has been approved.

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply.

Establishing Eligibility for USDA Programs (PDF; 965 KB)

Socially Disadvantaged - Beginning and Limited Resource Farmer


Program Description - Oklahoma

Application Overview

Any applicant may apply for participation in ACEP, EQIP, CSP, or RCPP. The NRCS State Conservationist or Area Director, in consultation with stakeholders including the State Technical Committee, Tribal Conservation Advisory Councils, and Local Work Groups, has developed the following ranking criteria to prioritize and select applications that best address the applicable program purposes and priority natural resource concerns in Oklahoma.

The NRCS State Conservationist will establish application batching periods and select the highest ranked applications for funding, based on applicant eligibility and the NRCS ranking process. In Fiscal Year 2021, NRCS will use its Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) to assess and rank all eligible applications for NRCS conservation programs. 

Inventory and Assessment in CART

CART is a decision support system designed to provide a consistent, replicable framework for the conservation planning process based on geospatially referenced information, client-provided information, field observations, and NRCS conservation planner expertise. CART is designed to assist NRCS conservation planners as they assess site vulnerability and existing conditions and identify natural resource concerns on a unit of land.

In CART, assessments of existing management and conservation efforts are compared against conservation planning criteria thresholds to determine the level of conservation effort needed to address identified natural resource concerns.  The results are then used to inform NRCS conservation planning activities for the client. NRCS also uses CART to consolidate resource data and program information to prioritize program delivery and report outcomes of NRCS investments in conservation.

In general, resource concerns fall into one of three categories for the assessment method used in CART to assess and document a resource concern:

  • Client Input/Planner Observation: A streamlined list of options is presented to the planner to document the client input and/or planner observation of the resource concerns present. These observations are compared to the conservation planning criteria thresholds.
  • Procedural/Deductive: A large group of resource concerns fall into this category and are assessed using a resource concern-specific tool or a list of inventory-like criteria. Due to variability in State tools, assessment questions and answers will be broad in nature to allow States to more carefully align them with State conditions. 
  • Predictive: The remaining resource concerns are assessed using a predictive interactive model simulation. The CART systems attempt to replicate the outcomes related to the assessment threshold being met or not compared to the model outputs.

After identifying resource concerns and describing existing conditions, planned conservation practices and activities can be added to the existing condition to determine the state of the proposed management system. Supporting practices that are needed to support primary conservation practices and activities are also identified, but do not add conservation management points to the total.

If the client is interested in financial assistance through an NRCS conservation program, the inventory and assessment information, along with client decisions related to conservation practice adoption, are directly and consistently transferred from the assessment portion of CART to the ranking portion of CART.  Based on the transferred assessment information and the conservation practices proposed for implementation, CART identifies the appropriate program ranking pool(s).

Ranking in CART

In general, NRCS program ranking criteria uses the following guiding principles:

  • Degree of cost-effectiveness of the proposed conservation practices and activities;
  • The level of performance of proposed conservation practices and activities;
  • Treatment of multiple resource concerns or national priority resource concerns;
  • Magnitude of the environmental benefits resulting from the treatment of resource concerns

reflecting the level of performance of proposed conservation practices and activities; and

  • Compliance with Federal, State, local or tribal regulatory requirements with regards to natural resources.

CART uses a set of National Ranking Templates developed for each NRCS program and initiative. The National Ranking Templates contain four parameters that are customized for each program to reflect the national level ranking criteria. The four parameters are:

  1. Land Uses - NRCS has developed land use designations to be used by planners and modelers at the field and landscape level. Land use modifiers more accurately define the land’s actual use and provide another level of specificity and help denote how the land is managed. Land use designations and modifiers are defined in  Title 180, National Planning Procedures Handbook, Part 600.
  2. Resource Concerns - An expected degradation of the soil, water, air, plant, or animal resource base to the extent that the sustainability or intended use of the resource is impaired. Because NRCS quantifies or describes resource concerns as part of a comprehensive conservation planning process, that includes client objectives, human and energy resources are considered components of the resource base.
  3. Practices - A specific treatment used to address resource concerns, such as structural or vegetative measures, or management techniques, which are planned and implemented in accordance with applicable standards and specifications.
  4. Ranking Component Weights – A set of five components comprise the ranking score for an individual land-based assessment. The five components are:
    1. Vulnerability - Site vulnerability is determined by subtracting the existing condition and existing practice scores from the thresholds. This score is weighted by ranking pool to address the resource concerns prioritized by that ranking pool.
    2. Planned Practice Effects - The planned practice effect score is based on the sum of the planned practice on that land unit which addresses the resource concern. This score is weighted by ranking pool to address the resource concerns prioritized by that ranking pool.
    3. Resource Priorities - National and State resource priorities are established to address the most critical land and resource considerations and are based on NRCS national and State priorities identified with input from National, State, and local stakeholders. 
    4. Program Priorities - National and State program priorities are established to maximize program effectiveness and advance program purposes and are based on NRCS national and State priorities identified with input from National, State, and local stakeholders. 
    5. Cost Efficiency – Summation of ‘Planned Practice Points’ divided by the log of the ‘Average Practice Cost’. 

NOTE: The points for vulnerability, planned practice effects, and cost efficiency are garnered from the assessment portion of CART.

Oklahoma created State-specific ranking pools within the above-described National Ranking Template parameters. The State ranking pools contain a set of questions that are divided into the following sections – applicability, category, program questions, and resource questions.  Ranking pool customization allows States to focus funding on priority resource concerns and initiatives identified at the State level with input from NRCS stakeholders.  Each eligible application may be considered for funding in all applicable ranking pools by program.  

 

NRCS Resource Concerns

The following table lists the 47 Resource Concerns NRCS uses during the Conservation Planning process.

 

Categories

 

NRCS Resource Concerns

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soil

1. Sheet and rill erosion

2. Wind erosion

3. Ephemeral gully erosion

4. Classic gully erosion

5. Bank erosion from streams, shorelines, or water conveyance channels

6. Subsidence

7. Compaction

8. Organic matter depletion

9. Concentration of salts or other chemicals

10. Soil organism habitat loss or degradation

11. Aggregate instability

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water

12. Ponding and flooding

13. Seasonal high-water table

14. Seeps

15. Drifted snow

16. Surface water depletion

17. Groundwater depletion

18. Naturally available moisture use

19. Inefficient irrigation water use

20. Nutrients transported to surface water

21. Nutrients transported to groundwater

22. Pesticides transported to surface water

23. Pesticides transported to groundwater

24. Pathogens and chemicals from manure, biosolids, or compost applications

transported to surface water

25. Pathogens and chemicals from manure, biosolids, or compost applications

transported to groundwater

26. Salts transported to surface water

27. Salts transported to groundwater

28. Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to surface water

29. Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to groundwater

30. Sediment transported to surface water

 

31. Elevated water temperature

Air

32. Emissions of particulate matter (PM) and PM precursors

33. Emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHGs)

34. Emissions of ozone precursors

35. Objectionable odors

36. Emissions of airborne reactive nitrogen

Plants

37. Plant productivity and health

38. Plant structure and composition

39. Plant pest pressure

40. Wildfire hazard from biomass accumulation

Animals

41. Terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates

42. Aquatic habitat for fish and other organisms

43. Feed and forage imbalance

44. Inadequate livestock shelter

45. Inadequate livestock water quantity, quality and distribution

Energy

46. Energy efficiency of equipment and facilities

47. Energy efficiency of farming/ranching practices and field operations

 

Program-Specific Information

Environmental Quality Incentives Program- EQIP

The following EQIP ranking criteria are included in the “Program Questions” section of ranking pools for EQIP, with the weighting of each question based on State-level priorities:

PROGRAM QUESTIONS

 Has the applicant had an EQIP contract cancelled in the past 2 years?

Is this application for development of a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP)?

Will EQIP Plan of Operations result in an improvement of existing conservation system already in place at time of application or complete a conservation system?

Does the planned practice(s) address any of Oklahoma top 5 identified resource concerns (Degraded Plant Condition, Soil Quality Limitations, Pest Pressure, Wind and Water Erosion, and Concentrated Erosion) based on the conservation assessment? Select the number that apply.

 

The following EQIP ranking criteria are included in the “Resource Questions” section of ranking pools for EQIP, with the weighting of each question based on local and state-level priorities by funding pools:

Water Quality Related Fund Pools:

 

1.  The planned treatment will include practices that address one of the following:

   a.  All three concepts of Avoiding, Controlling and Trapping to address water quality concerns

  b.  Two of the three concepts of Avoiding, Controlling and Trapping to address water quality concerns

2.  Field Loss: Planned practices include minimum of 3 years of 590 Nutrient Management when applying any form of nutrients, including animal waste

3.   Storage and Handling: Practices are planned that will reduce concentrated losses of nutrients and pathogen from domestic animal confinement. Practices will include waste storage, mortality facilities and/or practices needed to direct clean water away from concentrated sources.

4.  Animal wastes produced on the farm will be applied according to an approved CNMP

5.  Planned practice activities will result in livestock access to impaired water bodies being controlled or excluded

 

Cropland Land use Related Fund Pools:

 

1. The conservation plan will reduce erosion below T by one of the following (select one)?

a.  Planting diverse permanent vegetation 

b.  Adopting changes in residue management practices and crop rotation

c.  Planting monoculture permanent vegetation

2. Conservation plan addresses all concentrated flow in the PLU?

3. Practices adopted will result in actively growing plants. Select one of the following:

a. >320 days per year

b. >275 days per year

c. <275 days per year

4. Practices will be adopted to address soil degradation by adopting one of the following:

a.  CROP - Long term cropping system which includes multiple years (3 years or more) of 328, 329, and 590 with at least one 340 Cover Crop.

b.  Long term cropping system which includes multiple years (3 years or more) of 328 and 329 with at least one 340 Cover Crop

c.  Cropping system includes less than 3 years of 328 or 329 with a minimum of one 340 cover crop

 

Grazing Land Related Fund Pools:

 

1.  Planned treatment will restore structure and composition of plant community on all the acres of PLU or offered acres.  Select from one of the following:

a. Treatment will include using patch burn grazing system applied over a 3-year period.  Patch burn grazing incorporates both burning rotation within the field and season where applicable.  See Oklahoma state extension fact sheets for additional information on planning systems for patch burn grazing.

b. Treatment includes using prescribed burning in conjunction with a grazing plan (528) that addresses changes in management to restore the plant community.

c. Treatment consists of mechanical or chemical methods using  individual plant treatment (IPT) to control identified concern.

d. Treatment consists of whole field treatment with chemicals or mechanical.

2.  Does the final planned treatment incorporate forbs and legumes into an existing introduced pasture that increases structure and composition and provided benefits for other resources?  Treatment for incorporation must include a grazing management plan that addresses the plants that are incorporated for the lifespan of the practice used.

3.  An NRCS approved grazing plan will be implemented to facilitate a change in management. Select from one of the following:

a.  528 will be applied over 3 growing seasons.

b.  528 will be applied over 2 growing seasons

c.  528 will only be applied during one growing season (this is not the required deferment following treatment of plant pests)

4. Does the final planned treatment assist with a prescribed grazing plan that uses exclosures, photos and in field data collection in conjunction with a monitoring plan.

5. Does the final planned treatment assist with conservation practices that promote introduced pastureland productivity and health through the incorporation of additional functional groups (should include legumes) and a change in grazing management.  Grazing management is implemented in a way that increases animal movement significantly and protects the functional groups added.

6. Does the planned treatment control herbaceous species of state significance (plants? Sericea Lespedeza, Musk Thistle, Scotch Thistle or Canada Thistle)? Select all that apply:

a. Species make up 10-25% by weight of the plant community within the planned unit?

b. Planned treatment assist control of herbaceous species using 338 (prescribed fire) during the summer as an integrated approach with fall applied herbicides.

7. Does the planned treatment control one or more brush species of state significance. (Eastern Red Cedar, Mesquite, Osage Orange or Winged elm?) Select one of the following:

a. Canopy cover of <10% using conservation practice 338 prescribed burning

b. Canopy cover of 10%-20%, any treatment option

8. Treatment planned on 100% of the brush identified on the plu or offered acres?

9. Is the project addressing bank erosion on an intermittent or perennial stream/river and livestock will be excluded or access controlled from the bank or restricted to a designated access point?

10. Is the project addressing bank erosion on a stream or river identified as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act or listed as impaired on the State’s 303(d) list?

11. Conservation plan addresses all concentrated flow in the PLU?

12. Is inadequate water distribution contributing to another resource concern (i.e. degraded range health) that will be addressed by improving water distribution. Example – stocking rate is correct, no need for fences, proper grazing heights would be met by just adding water in another location to better distribute grazing).

13. Water quality and/or quantity will be addressed through installation of new water system (not ponds) that will provide improved quality or meet quantity requirements for herd.  Existing poor source of water will be removed or have livestock excluded from use.

Applying for EQIP

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.

Get Started with NRCS by learning the steps to receive conservation assistance.

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.

Benefits

Some of these benefits include:

  • Reduction of contamination from agricultural sources, such as animal feeding operations.
  • Efficient utilization of nutrients, reducing input costs and reduction in nonpoint source pollution.
  • Increased soil health to help mitigate against increasing weather volatility and improved drought resiliency.

2018 Farm Bill EQIP Updates

Historically underserved (HU) participants are eligible for advance payments to help offset costs related to purchasing materials or contracting through EQIP.  HU participants may elect to receive an advance of not less than 50 percent of the EQIP conservation practice payment amount.  If the participant elects to receive the advance payment, the funds must be expended within 90 days of receiving the advance.

The 2018 Farm Bill expanded eligibility regarding with whom NRCS can enter into an EQIP contract.  NRCS may enter into EQIP contracts with water management entities when they are supporting a water conservation or irrigation efficiency project.  These entities are defined as State, irrigation district, ground water management district, acequia, land grant-merced, or similar entity.

The 2018 Farm Bill requires a national 10 percent of mandatory program funding be targeted towards source water protection.  States will identify priority source water protection areas and may offer increased incentives and higher payment rates for practices that address water quality and/or water quantity.  

Beginning in 2020, States may provide increased payment rates for high-priority practices.  In consultations with the State Technical Committee, State Conservationists may designate up to 10 practices to be eligible for increased payments.  Eligible high-priority practices include those that address specific causes of ground or surface water impairment relating to excessive nutrients, address the conservation of water to advance drought mitigation and declining aquifers, meets other environmental priorities and other priority resource concerns identified in habitat or other area restoration plans, or is geographically targeted to address a natural resource concern in a specific watershed.

 

 

For additional information and assistance, contact your local NRCS Field Service Center.