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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

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From weather to pests, each American farmer faces a unique set of challenges. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural and forestry producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, and improved or created wildlife habitat.

Benefits

This voluntary conservation programs helps producers make conservation work for them. Together, NRCS and producers invest in solutions that conserve natural resources for the future while also improving agricultural operations. 

Through EQIP, NRCS provides agricultural producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement improvements, or what NRCS calls conservation practices. Using these practices can lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better wildlife habitat, all while improving agricultural operations. Through EQIP, you can voluntarily implement conservation practices, and NRCS co-invests in these practices with you.

Program at a Glance

To get started, NRCS first works one-on-one with you to develop a conservation plan that meets your goals and vision for the land. This becomes a roadmap for which conservation practices best meet your needs. 

Financial assistance covers part of the costs from implementing conservation practices. NRCS offers about 200 practices depending on where your land is located. These practices are geared towards working farms, ranches and forests and provide producers with many options for conservation. See a list of practices.  

Popular Practices

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How to Apply

The best way to learn if EQIP is a good fit for you is by contacting your local NRCS office. If you choose to move forward, your local NRCS conservationist will guide you through applying for the program. 

Applications are ranked, and if yours is funded, NRCS will offer you an EQIP contract to receive financial assistance for the cost of implementing practices. Payment rates for conservation practices are reviewed and set each fiscal year. More information on this process is available on our How Do I Apply webpage.

Local Work Group Workload Prioritization Tools

Screening tools are available for some Local Work Groups in Wisconsin by three topics (cropland, pasture and forest). For more information about your Local Work Group and the screening tools available, click here.


Special Initiative Opportunities

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Farmstead
(Apply by November 19, 2021 for 2022 Funding)

NRCS helps livestock producers improve nutrient handling and clean water separation by implementing practices supporting manure storage, feedlot and barnyard runoff and clean water diversion. This special opportunity also provides technical and financial assistance for roofs and covers placed over, for example, open cattle lots.

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Landscape Initiatives
(Apply by November 19, 2021 for 2022 Funding)

Landscape initiatives enable NRCS to more effectively address priority natural resource concerns by delivering systems of practices, primarily to the most vulnerable lands within geographic focus areas.

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Local Work Group
(Apply by November 19, 2021 for 2022 Funding)

Wisconsin has 18 Local Work Groups (LWG). Each LWG has a fund pool for cropland, forest and wildlife, and pasture. LWGs collect local stakeholder input and use the feedback to focus on their own local resource concern priorities for each fund pool, making each LWG fund pool unique and locally relevant.

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On-Farm Energy
(Apply by November 19, 2021 for 2022 Funding)

NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. Audit data is used to plan, develop and implement energy conservation recommendations.

Organic Transition

Organic
(Apply by November 19, 2021 for 2022 Funding)

NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers, working to achieve organic certification, install conservation practices to address resource concerns on organic operations. Funding is available for certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic production. Some individual practices have higher payments, in recognition of the higher cost of organic seeds/fertilizers in an organic system.

Source Water Protection

Source Water Protection
(Apply by November 19, 2021 for 2022 Funding)

Source water refers to ground water aquifers, rivers or lakes that provide water to public drinking supplies. Areas in Wisconsin with high concentrations of public water systems experiencing elevated nitrate levels have been identified for eligibility. Specific practices identified as improving nitrate levels are eligible to receive 90% payment rate, such as nutrient management, filter strips, and forage and biomass planting.

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Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture pioneers are taking action in their communities, growing not only fresh, healthy produce, but also providing jobs, beautifying their neighborhoods, and offering access to fresh, healthy food in areas where grocery stores are sparse. As American agriculture continues to grow in new directions, NRCS conservation assistance is growing along with it. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance for assistance for urban growers in areas such as soil health, irrigation and water conservation and high tunnels.


Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry

NRCS identifies a sub-set of conservation practices as critical for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon and ultimately mitigating the impacts of climate change. These practices are listed at nrcs.usda.gov/eqip.

In this targeted EQIP signup, NRCS in Wisconsin prioritizes conservation practices that support systems for:

  • Building soil health.
  • Improving nitrogen management.
  • Improving livestock waste management systems.
  • Enhancing grazing and pasture management.
  • Improving agroforestry, forestry and upland wildlife habitat.

FY2022 CSAF Workload Prioritaztion Tool (176KB PDF)

Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning, and Limited Resource Farmers/Ranchers, Veteran Farmers

The 2018 Farm Bill continues to address 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 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. Wisconsin 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.

Conservation Planning Activities (CPA), Design & Implementation Activities (DIA) and Conservation Evaluation & Monitoring Activities (CEMA)

Technical service providers (TSP) or other third-party service providers (Providers) for NRCS can carry out planning, design, implementation, and monitoring tasks for NRCS conservation program purposes (previously known as Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs)). NRCS has reorganized and renamed CAPs into three new categories—Conservation Planning Activities (CPAs), Design and Implementation Activities (DIAs), and Conservation Evaluation and Monitoring Activities (CEMAs). NRCS broke these activities out to clarify which phase of the NRCS conservation planning process the TSP/Provider will be supporting. For more information on plans/programs specific to each category, click here.

  • Conservation Planning Activities (CPAs): The CPA will document client decisions regarding selected alternatives including identification of desired primary and supporting practices that the client would like to use to treat identified resource concerns. Planning activities associated with forest management, Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMP) and others can be performed as CPA’s.
  • Design and Implementation Activities (DIAs): Activities that allow for development of specific practice designs, management prescriptions, or other instructions that allow the client to implement the conservation practice or system of conservation practices. Design and implementation activities for Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans, forest management, grazing management and others are included.
  • Conservation Evaluation and Monitoring Activities (CEMAs): Activities that include evaluation, monitoring, testing, or assessment for a specific purpose, to complete practice implementation requirements, or to determine the effectiveness of conservation practices and activities. Examples may include Edge of Field Monitoring and Energy Audits. 

Eligible producers may apply at their local NRCS office. EQIP payments are made directly to the program participants for development of a CPA, DIA or CEMA. These may only be developed by an NRCS-certified Technical Service Provider (TSP). To find an NRCS-certified TSP, search the TSP website.

More Information

If you want to learn more about EQIP, you can contact your local NRCS office. Your NRCS conservationist will visit you and evaluate the natural resources on your land. NRCS will then present a variety of conservation practices or system alternatives to help you address those concerns or management goals to improve or protect the natural resource conditions on your land.

Once you have chosen the right conservation practices for your land, you may be offered an EQIP contract to receive financial assistance for the cost of implementing certain practices.  Payment rates for conservation practices are reviewed and set each fiscal year. 

State EQIP Contact: Meridith Williams, (608) 662-4422 ext. 237, meridith.williams@usda.gov