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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Fiscal Year 2022 EQIP Implementation just around the corner-
 
The ranking cut-off date for county, local emphasis areas, and statewide fund pools set for January 7, 2022.
 
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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 submit an application 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 or Area Director 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 2022, 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

 

All applications must be received by January 7, 2022 to be considered for funding in FY2022.

Applications selected for funding will be funded prior to September 30, 2022.

 

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.