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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

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Introduction

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.

Accepting Applications

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. The following document describes how to apply for Farm Bill programs or visit the following website: Get started with NRCS national page

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

To apply for EQIP, contact your local service center.

Eligibility

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.

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

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply. 

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.

Note: Notification that starting a practice prior to written contract approval will result in the ineligibility of that practice for EQIP assistance.

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.

West 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.

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 of emissions, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and ozone precursors and depleters that contribute to air quality impairment violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards
  4. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
  5. Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
  6. Energy conservation to help save fuel, improve efficiency of water use, maintain production, and protect soil and water resources by more efficiently using fertilizers and pesticides and
  7. Biological carbon storage and sequestration

In addition, West Virginia has identified the following priorities:

  1. Grazing management: fencing and stockwater systems
  2. Nutrient management: manure storage structures, planned nutrient applications, soil testing
  3. Wildlife habitat enhancement: stream buffers, upland wildlife habitat establishment

Decision Making Process for EQIP

Input from Outside Groups, Agencies, and Citizens: The list of eligible practices in West 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.

The Local Work Group process and scoring criteria, are based on input from the counties in the Local Work Groups (LWG).

The priorities set at the state and county level are those that the STC and LWG respectively determined were of the greatest need and would have the greatest positive environmental impact. The scoring process at both the state and local level was developed in order to select those projects that would provide the greatest environmental benefit, and therefore provide the greatest public good.

West Virginia Program Information

West Virginia has 14 different Local Working Group areas. The areas range from 1 county to 6 counties and cover all of West Virginia’s 55 counties. The Local Working Groups are organized by the West Virginia Conservation District boundaries. In West Virginia, the Conservation Districts are based on the major watershed boundaries in the state.

Each Conservation District convenes Local Working Group meetings to identify and prioritize their natural resource concerns which EQIP can address. The Local Working Groups included representatives of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Conservation Districts, State Conservation Agency, Cooperative Extension, Dept. of Natural Resources, Dept. of Environmental Protection, US Fish and Wildlife, County officials, and other elected officials.

The Local Working Groups identify and prioritize the needed practices to address local and statewide resource concerns. The prioritized practice information is used to develop ranking criteria to evaluate EQIP applications. Each Local Working Group recommends practices and payment rates in their Conservation District’s area. This information is submitted as the Local Working Group’s proposal for consideration by the State Technical Committee and the NRCS State Conservationist.  The NRCS State Conservationist makes the final decisions regarding EQIP implementation in the state.

A state allocation formula is used to allocate funds to national, state, and local funding pools, and includes a variety of factors that address items such as acres of grazing land, acres of cropland, number of unfunded applications, etc. These factors take into consideration national and state EQIP priorities and measures. The State Technical Committee reviews the state allocation formula and makes recommendations to the NRCS State Conservationist. There is no guarantee that every county will receive funding. Applications will be grouped, evaluated, and funded based on the ranking criteria for that pool. Land users in every county will have the opportunity to apply and compete for EQIP funding, but there will not be a county level allocation.

Fiscal Year 2021 EQIP Deadlines                                      EQIP Ranking Criteria

West Virginia NRCS will establish ranking periods to evaluate and rank all eligible applications received until the end of a given ranking period. Applications will be funded as ranked as far down the list as the funding will allow. A cut off date will be established by the NRCS state office as to when funds must be obligated. If funds are not obligated by this date, funds may be reallocated to other areas.

Period 1: The application cut-off for ranking period 2021-1 is November 20, 2020. 

To apply for EQIP, contact your local service center Get Started with NRCS - Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease? NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. Learn how here.

West Virginia EQIP Funding Pools and Ranking Documents  (2021)

Funding Opportunities for FY 2021
These summaries are intended to provide an overview of WV funding opportunities through general EQIP allocations and national initiatives. The following projects were selected for such funding in fiscal year 2021.

Ranking Pool

Ranking Pool Category

Descriptions

Additional Criteria

FY21 On-Farm Energy FY21 On-Farm Energy The Agricultural Act of 2014 Section 2201 (16 U.S. Code Section 3839aa) authorizes the use of EQIP to address energy conservation. The initiative is designed to assist producers in two ways: 1) Identify ways to reduce energy use on their farms through development of a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) 128 Agricultural Energy Management Plan (AgEMP), also known as an on-farm energy audit. 2) Provide assistance to implement various recommended measures using conservation practice standards that address inefficient use of on-farm energy.

Statewide
Practice List
(122 kb)

FY21 Organic FY21 Organic Certified All States and Territories are required to offer the Organic Initiative. Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) NOI, NRCS will assist eligible producers with installation of conservation practices on agricultural operations related to organic production. NRCS has determined that this definition includes certified organic producers and producers who are transitioning to become certified organic. Eligible applicants also include producers who fall under the exemption category in the National Organic Program (NOP) regulation. Only certified organic applications may be ranked in this subaccount.

Statewide
Practice List
(191 kb)

FY21 Organic Transition All States and Territories are required to offer the Organic Initiative. Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) NOI, NRCS will assist eligible producers with installation of conservation practices on agricultural operations related to organic production. NRCS has determined that this definition includes certified organic producers and producers who are transitioning to become certified organic. Eligible applicants also include producers who fall under the exemption category in the National Organic Program (NOP) regulation. Transitioning and exempt from certification producers must be evaluated in this subaccount.

Statewide
Practice List
(191 kb)

Conservation Activity Plans Conservation Activity Plans Funding is available for the development of a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP). A 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, forest land, or can also address a specific resource need such a plan for management of nutrients.A CAP is the conservation practice associated with the development of an approved conservation activity plan by certified technical service providers for which payments are made directly to EQIP participants, and in some instances may be required for further financial assistance to be provided for plan implementation.

Statewide
Practice List
(149 kb)

Beginning Farmer Beginning Farmer Historically underserved individuals and groups include those who have not participated in, or who have received limited benefits from, USDA or NRCS programs. The 2008, 2014, and 2018 Farm Bills recognize producers who are beginning farmers or ranchers as eligible for special considerations for program participation. The 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills also included veterans meeting certain conditions in the historically underserved category. Special considerations may include increased payment rates, advance payments, evaluation under special ranking pools, and priority for funding as specified in the individual program regulations and policies. A person, Indian Tribe, Tribal corporation, or legal entity who has not operated a farm or ranch, or NIPF, or who has operated a farm, ranch, or NIPF for not more than 10 consecutive years. This requirement applies to all members of an entity, who will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.

Statewide
Practice List
(186 kb)

Socially Disadvantaged Socially Disadvantaged Historically underserved individuals and groups include those who have not participated in, or who have received limited benefits from, USDA or NRCS programs. The 2008, 2014, and 2018 Farm Bills recognize producers who are socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers as eligible for special considerations for program participation. The 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills also included veterans meeting certain conditions in the historically underserved category. Special considerations may include increased payment rates, advance payments, evaluation under special ranking pools, and priority for funding as specified in the individual program regulations and policies. A producer who is a member of a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices without regard to its members’ individual qualities. These groups consist of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Asians, Blacks or African Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. A socially disadvantaged applicant is an individual or entity who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. For an entity, at least 50-percent ownership in the farm business must be held by socially disadvantaged individuals. Note: Gender is not a covered group under the 1990 Farm Bill definition.

Statewide
Practice List
(186 kb)

CNMP Strikeforce
 
Non-Strikeforce

The Strikeforce Initiative allows NRCS to work with farmers in West Virginia communities that face persistent poverty. NRCS provides increased economic opportunities by installing conservation practices to promote healthy soil, clean air and wate

Practice List
(174 kb)

Strikeforce USDA deployed a multiagency SFI to better serve persistent poverty communities and socially disadvantaged farmers through the coordination of activities among USDA agencies and the use of community-based organizations’ local expertise. Using existing authorities, programs, and agreements, USDA strategically utilizes community-based partners to educate farmers, implement service plans, and establish appropriate accountability mechanisms to help gauge results, measure efficacy of efforts, and to improve success rates. These enhanced partnerships will increase effectiveness at the local level while the additional USDA agency coordination will ensure that the Department is a more comprehensive and inclusive service provider. The overall goal of SFI is to better serve USDA’s identified persistently impoverished counties and provide resources to historically underserved producers, which include limited-resource farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers, veteran farmers and ranchers, and Indian Tribes. State Conservationists may determine whether to offer assistance through a State initiative or as part as their State’s general program opportunity.

Practice List
(174 kb)

Map
(1.05 mb)

WV Poultry Potomac Valley Poultry The project area covers all five counties of the Potomac Valley Conservation District (PVCD): Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, and Pendleton. The revenue from poultry products and the local industry is essential to the economic stability of the PVCD area (the top 3 ranked counties in the state for poultry products is in the district). These five counties are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and have TMDL regulations for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. To meet the 2025 targets set by the EPA for nutrient reductions in the Bay drainage area of West Virginia, it is crucial to address the issues of poultry litter storage and application. Many farms in the PVCD have high soil levels of phosphorus, and regularly apply poultry litter. Many of these same soils have a high leaching index, resulting in potential nutrient loading into sensitive waterways. Surrounding states have more stringent nutrient management requirements; and while the revised NRCS 590 (Nutrient Management) standard has lessened the soil P threshold, NRCS should be encouraging the implementation of CNMP’s to proactively avoid the need for stronger regulation in WV. We are seeing an expansion of the poultry industry in our district and this proposal would ensure new producers start off following and implementing BMPs to mitigate negative impacts associated with animal waste. Three years of 590-Nutrient Management will be included in every contract following the installation of all practices to ensure adherence to the CNMP. *If applicable, the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) must be completed and approved to be eligible to compete in this funding opportunity.

Practice List
(145 kb)

WV Wildlife
 
General Wildlife A priority of EQIP is for the promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation. The Wildlife Habitat Conservation funding pool is available to West Virginia producers who will restore, develop, or enhance wildlife habitat.

Statewide
Practice List
(174 kb)

WV Stream Restoration
 
Potomac Valley Cacapon - Lost River Stream Restoration This funding pool targets the creation of natural stream structures and native fish habitat within the Cacapon - Lost River Watershed.

Practice List
(155 kb)

Map
(2.43 mb)

General Stream Restoration This funding opportunity targets other areas of the state for stream restoration that are not included in locally-targeted projects. The statewide funding opportunity will promote the adoption and implementation of natural stream restoration techniques to promote viable fisheries and increase water quality.

Statewide
Practice List
(158 kb)

WV Forestry WV Forestry The Forest Management Implementation (FMI) statewide funding pool is for producers with non-industrial private forestland. The goal of the ranking is to address resource issues where forest-related products are produced. Applications will be grouped and funding ditributed by Major Land Resourec Area (MLRA).

Statewide
Practice List
(129 kb)

WV Grazing WV Grazing This is a statewide funding opportunity aimed at the implementation and promotion of best management practices on pastureland. The goal will be to increase the overall Pasture Condition Score through the adoption of better grazing techniques. Applications will be grouped and funding ditributed by Major Land Resourec Area (MLRA).

Statewide
Practice List
(156 kb)

GV Source Water
 
Anthony Creek Water Quality The project area is the Anthony Creek Watershed (0505000305) which makes up part of the Greenbrier River Watershed in eastern Greenbrier County (see project area map attached). Anthony Creek is a major tributary of the Greenbrier River, which it joins in Anthony, WV. The Neola Wildlife Management Area is located within the watershed, as are the towns of Neola and Alvon and a few smaller communities. Participation in NRCS programs has traditionally been low in this watershed as compared to other parts of the county. A Watershed Based Plan has been developed for Anthony Creek Watershed by the West Virginia Conservation Agency (WVCA) and has be approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). There is a big interest on improving fish habitat in Anthony Creek due to recent findings by outside agencies that found isolated populations of trout that need to be reconnected in the watershed. The base plan lists runoff from grazed areas and livestock access to streams potential contributors to fecal coliform and sedimentation impairment in this watershed. In addition, the Anthony Creek Watershed is part of the source water protection areas in West Virginia for the City of Lewisburg. The Local Working Group has chosen to provide exclusion fencing and livestock water systems with this proposal that will reduce the time livestock spends in or near a stream or ephemeral drainage but promises to do comprehensive conservation planning, especially as it pertains to exclusion of sensitive areas and facilitation of rotational grazing. Location of livestock water systems will be carefully planned to accommodate exclusion and pasture division fences to better distribute livestock grazing pressure and keep livestock away from sensitive areas. Water development and distribution along with the exclusion of livestock from water bodies such as streams, ponds and springs will be essential practices to address water quality concerns. As alternative livestock water is developed, streams, ponds or springs which had been sources of livestock water will be excluded from livestock as the new approved livestock watering systems are activated therefore increasing quality of the aquatic habitat for trout and other aquatic organisms.

Practice List
(150 kb)

Appalachian Heritage Agriculture

 Appalachian Heritage Agriculture

 

Statewide
Practice List
(157 kb)

Golden Winged-Warbler Golden Winged-Warbler Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) is a partnership that leverages capabilities and resources, targets assistance where it is most needed, cooperatively engages State and local partners, and works collaboratively with agricultural producers, forest land managers, and Tribes. NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have selected seven at-risk species whose decline can be reversed given sufficient resources and landowner participation. Working Lands for Wildlife will promote voluntary, incentive-based conservation on private and Tribal lands.

Practice List
(122 kb)

Updated 04/01/2021

NWQI - Indian Creek (Burnside Branch) NWQI - Indian Creek (Burnside Branch) The purpose of NWQI is to work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices as part of areawide efforts to improve water quality in high-priority areas. These areas are defined primarily by subwatersheds and referred to in this guidance generally as NWQI watersheds. NWQI is designed to help individual agricultural producers take actions to reduce the runoff of sediment, nutrients, and pathogens into surface waters where water quality is a critical concern. Practice implementation is focused to identified areas of the watershed most in need of treatment. NWQI also assists with practice implementation on priority source water protection areas, where the drinking water source is surface or ground water.

Statewide
Practice List
(166 kb)

Updated 04/01/2021

Map
(702 kb)