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Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Providing technical, financial, and educational assistance to farmers and ranchers to address significant natural resource concerns and objectives

Program Basics
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was reauthorized in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 Farm Bill to provide a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production, forest management, and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land and nonindustrial private forest land.

EQIP offers financial assistance to implement conservation practices. The minimum term of these contracts ends 1 year after the implementation of the last scheduled practices; a maximum term is 10 years.

EQIP activities are carried out according to an environmental quality incentives program plan of operations developed in conjunction with the producer. The plan identifies the appropriate conservation practice or practices to address the resource concerns. The practices are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions.

Project Examples
Kansas — Plant and Animal Health. An EQIP participant, Woodson County, Kansas, knew she needed to do something. Brush of blackberry, sumac, multiflora rose, dogwood, and post oak trees had produced a canopy on 15 percent of the ground contributing to poor grass growth. Her stocking rate on the ranch had dropped 20 to 25 percent over the last few years. Producer wanted to increase her herd and stabilize her land values. After a visit to the NRCS office, a plan recommended cross-fencing, grazing rotation plan, and prescribed burns with aerial herbicide applications for brush management. The producer was approved for an EQIP contract and was eligible to receive an extra incentive payment.

North Dakota — Soil Health. The County Local Work Group requested Cover Crops be included in the EQIP practice list for 2007. The request was approved and during the next EQIP batching period a total of 31 contracts were approved, 15 of the contracts included Cover Crops. The first year's response has been very positive. Farmers and ranchers incorporated the cover crops into their no-till systems and are using them to address specific resource concerns: crop diversity, soil organic matter, nutrient cycling, surface litter, moisture management, pest management, water quality, wildlife, and livestock forage. Most of the Cover Crops were grown in combinations or "cocktails", which have numerous Soil Health benefits. Cover Crops are also being used as a bridge to integrate the no-till cropping systems and rotational grazing systems.

California — Air Quality. Air Quality Initiative for San Joaquin Valley Farmers announced in FY 2007. This new 3-year proposal combines technical and cost share assistance through the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS would oversee the initiative using both conservation technical assistance as well as its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which shares the cost of structures and practices that farmers undertake to protect natural resources. USDA made some money available in August to fund a portion of California's backlog of eligible applications to voluntarily improve air quality. Since the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will soon be requiring agricultural growers to reduce on-farm emissions of smog-producing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's), there is a heightened need to help producers now to meet the mandate.

Application and Financial Information
EQIP may share up to 75 percent of the costs of certain conservation practices. Payments for management practices may be provided for up to 3 years for incurred costs and income foregone.

However, socially disadvantaged producers, limited-resource producers and beginning farmers and ranchers may be eligible for cost-shares for up to 90 percent. Farmers and ranchers may elect to use a certified third-party provider for technical assistance.

EQIP provides financial assistance for up to 75 percent of the cost of vegetative and structural conservation practices, such as grassed waterways, filter strips, manure management facilities, and wildlife habitat enhancement. Contract applications are accepted throughout the year.

EQIP payments may also be made for management practices for up to three years. Examples of management practices include nutrient management, manure management, integrated pest management, irrigation water management, grazing management, and wildlife habitat management.

Eligibility, Uses, and Restrictions
Only people who are engaged in agricultural, forestry, or livestock production or are owners of such land can apply for this program. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pasture, nonindustrial private forest land, and other farm or ranch lands.

All activities under this program must work toward conservation of natural resources. All approved applicants are responsible for developing and submitting a conservation plan that will address the situation on the applicant's land relevant to the identified conservation needs or objectives that are to be addressed.

For Fiscal Year 2009 (FY09), EQIP was funded at $1.07 billion, and in FY10 at $1.18 billion. Both years' appropriations reflected cuts from levels authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Website
www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/

Contact
Edward Brzostek or Mark Parson
EQIP specialists, National Program Office
Environmental Quality Incentives Program
PO Box 2890
Washington, DC 20013-2890
Phone: (202) 720- 1834 or (202) 720-1840; Fax: (202) 720-4265
E-mail: edward.brzostek@wdc.usda.gov
mark.parson@wdc.usda.gov

Last Updated January 26, 2010

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