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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Virginia graziers looking out over field with cattle.

Introduction

Want to learn more? Download the following  FY18 fact sheets on EQIP and associated initiatives.

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.

Benefits

Eligible program participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices, or activities like conservation planning, that address natural resource concerns on their land. Payments are made to participants after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP plan of operations are implemented. Contracts can last up to ten years in duration.

Eligibility

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

Socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers, and veterans are eligible for an increased payment rate and may receive advance payment of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.

Applicants must:  

  • Be engaged in agriculture or forestry and have a farm number and tract established with the Farm Service Agency
  • Comply with adjusted gross income limitation (AGI)  provisions
  • Control or own eligible land
  • Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements
  • Develop an NRCS EQIP plan of operations

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply. 

How to Apply / Accepting Applications
(Virginia Environmental Quality Incentives Program - FY18 Details)

EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, but 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. 

Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted. NRCS will help eligible producers develop an EQIP plan of operations, which will become the basis of the EQIP contract. EQIP applications will be ranked based on a number of factors, including the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of the proposal. Starting a practice prior to contract execution will result in the ineligibility of that practice for EQIP assistance.

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:

  1. 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
  2. Conservation of ground and surface water resources
  3. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
  4. Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat

In addition, Virginia has identified the following priorities:

  • Cropland – Practices to enhance water and soil quality while improving plant health and productivity;
  • Forestry – Practices that will lead to the conversion of marginal land (active cropland, pasture or abandoned open land) to hardwood, longleaf or shortleaf pine;
  • High Tunnel – Steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures to extend the growing season in an environmentally safe manner; 
  • Livestock – Practices to improve and protect water and soil quality, while benefiting pland and animal health; 
  • Longleaf Pine - Stand establishment and management within the historical range in Southeastern Virginia; 
  • Northern Bobwhite in Working GrasslandsNative grass restoration to address habitat loss while maintaining or improving cattle production on the land;
  • National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) – Targeted practices to clean up impaired streams and improve aquatic habitats. Watersheds eligible for this fund pool are War Branch and Mountain Run in Rockingham County and Gap Creek in Rockingham and Shenandoah County;
  • On-Farm Energy – Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits to assess energy use and recommend ways to reduce it;
  • Organic – Practices to help certified organic growers, those working to achieve organic certification, and specialty crop producers address resource concerns on their operations.
  • Wildlife Practice to create, improve, and manage habitat for wildlife. (See also Working Lands for Wildlife initiative)

Decision Making Process for EQIP

Input from Outside Groups, Agencies, and Citizens: The list of eligible practices in Virginia, 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 agribusinesses, producer groups, conservation organizations, and federal, state, and tribal government agency representatives.

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.

Virginia 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.

More Information

EQIP Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.4 MB)

For more information visit your local
USDA Service Center

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or www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.

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Virginia EQIP - 2014 Farm Bill

Current Documents and Information Page for Virginia's EQIP

EQIP Archives:  FY2017 FY2016, FY2015, FY2014, FY2013, FY2012 ,FY2011, FY2010, FY2009, FY2008,

Contact:
Patrick Vincent
(804) 287-1642
E-mail: patrick.vincent@va.usda.gov

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