The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health and reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, improved or created wildlife habitat, and mitigation against increasing weather volatility.
How It Works
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.
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 (SWPA) 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.
EQIP Incentive Contracts
The 2018 Farm Bill introduced EQIP incentive contracts to expand resource benefits to producers through incentive practices such as cover crops, transition to resource conserving crop rotations and precision agriculture technologies along with a similarly broad suite of incentive practices for ranchers and non-industrial private forest operators. Every region within a State will have identified high-priority areas and each of these areas will target up to three priority resource concerns by land use. In addition to the payment for practice implementation, incentive contracts offer annual payments to address operations and maintenance costs as well as foregone income. EQIP incentive contracts can be a stepping stone for producers between EQIP classic and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contracts.
You can visit the 2018 Farm Bill Programs page for for more information about other NRCS conservation opportunities.
Targeted EQIP financial assistance is available through general EQIP, and several other initiatives. These initiatives address priority natural resource concerns on the most vulnerable lands, target conservation assistance in high priority watersheds, or help stimulate the development and adoption of innovation and technology. Learn about Landscape Conservation Initiatives here.
How To Get Started
To learn more about EQIP, contact your local NRCS office. An 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. Please visit the Apply for EQIP page for more information on to how apply.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or a part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.