Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Release No. 0164.97
Farm Management Update, June 1997
By E. Jane Dodds, Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, USDA
Questions & Answers about the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Question: What is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)?
Answer: EQIP is a new, voluntary USDA conservation program for farmers and ranchers who face serious threats to soil, water, and related natural resources. It provides technical, financial, and educational assistance primarily in designated priority areas. Nationally, half of the funding for EQIP is targeted to livestock-related natural resource concerns and the remainder to other significant conservation priorities.
Question: Where is EQIP available?
Answer: The program is available in every state, with an emphasis on either state-identified priority areas or significant state-wide concerns.
Question: What are priority areas?
Answer: In general priority areas are defined as watersheds, regions, or areas of special environmental sensitivity or having significant soil, water, or related natural resource concerns.
Question: How are priority areas selected?
Answer: Priority areas are determined by a process that begins with local work groups. These local work groups--convened by local conservation districts--do a conservation needs assessment and, based on that assessment, develop proposals for priority areas. These proposals are submitted to the NRCS State Conservationist, who selects those areas within the state based on the recommendations from the State Technical Committee.
Question: Who serves on the local work groups?
Answer: The local work groups are made up of representatives from conservation district board members and key staff, NRCS, Farm Service Agency (FSA), FSA county committees and key staffs, the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, and other federal, state, and local agencies interested in natural resource conservation. Their recommendations go to the NRCS-designated conservationist for the local area and then to the State Conservationist, who sets priorities with the advice of the State Technical Committee. The recommendations are integrated into regional and national strategic plans. These strategic plans provide a basis for funding decisions.
Question: Who is eligible for the program?
Answer: Eligibility is limited to persons who are engaged in livestock or agricultural production. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pasture, forest land, and other farm or ranch lands where the program is delivered.
Question: Are confined livestock operations eligible?
Answer: Owners of large confined livestock operations are not eligible for cost-share assistance for animal waste storage or treatment facilities. However, technical, educational, and financial assistance may be provided for other conservation practices on these large operations.
Question: What is the definition of a large confined livestock operation?
Answer: In general, USDA has defined a large confined livestock operation as an operation with more than 1,000 animal units in confinement. But, because of differences in operations and environmental circumstances across the country, the definition of a large confined livestock operation may be determined in each state by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist, after consultation with the State Technical Committee, and approved of the NRCS Chief.
Question: What cost-sharing is available?
Answer: Cost-sharing may pay up to 75 percent of the costs of certain conservation practices, such as grassed waterways, filter strips, manure management facilities, capping abandoned wells, and other practices important to improving and maintaining the health of natural resources in the area.
Question: What are incentive payments?
Answer: Incentives may be made to encourage a producer to perform land management practices such as nutrient management, manure management, integrated pest management, irrigation water management, and wildlife habitat management. Incentives may be provided for up to three years to encourage producers to carry out management practices they may not otherwise use without the program incentive.
Question: Do all resource concern areas have the same priority?
Answer: No. Soil, water, air, plant, animal, and related natural resource concerns are all given equal initial consideration for treatment, but higher priority is given to areas where state or local governments offer financial or technical assistance and to areas where agricultural improvements will help producers in complying with federal or state environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act. Nationally, 50 percent of the program funds will be targeted to natural resource concerns relating to livestock production.
Question: If I am not in a priority area, can I still qualify for EQIP?
Answer: EQIP can address additional significant statewide concerns that may occur outside designated priority areas. At least 65 percent of the funds will be used in designated priority areas and up to 35 percent can be used for other significant statewide natural resource concerns. Additional emphasis is given to areas where state or local governments offer financial or technical assistance and where agricultural improvements will help meet water quality and other environmental objectives.
Question: How do I apply for the program?
Answer: Producers may obtain contract applications at any USDA service center. The applications will be accepted throughout the year. The ranking and selecting of offers of producers will occur periodically during designated periods.
Question: Do I need a conservation plan under EQIP?
Answer: Yes. All EQIP activities must be carried out according to a conservation plan. Conservation plans are site-specific for each farm or ranch and can be developed by producers with help from NRCS or other service providers. Producers' plans should address the primary natural resource concerns. All plans are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions and are approved by the conservation district. Producers are not obligated, but are encouraged, to develop comprehensive or total resource management plans.
Question: Do I need to enter into a long-term contract to get assistance from EQIP?
Answer: Yes. EQIP offers 5- to 10-year contracts that provide cost-sharing and incentive payments for conservation practices called for in the site-specific plan.
Question: Does this 5-10 year contract represent a significant change from past conservation programs?
Answer: No. Many of the new contracts will focus on a single practice or a limited number of practices, as in the past. Also, past programs required that an installed conservation practice be maintained for its useful life, which is the functional equivalent of EQIP's 5 to 10 year contracts.
Question: Are there limits to individual payments?
Answer: Yes. Total cost-share and incentive payments are limited to $10,000 per person per year and $50,000 over the length of the contract.
Question: How did EQIP get started?
Answer: It is part of the conservation provisions in the 1996 Farm Bill and continues the Department's commitment to streamlining and improving its conservation program. EQIP puts a focus on conservation priority areas, maximizes environmental benefits per dollar expanded, and increases the involvement of communities through locally led conservation.
Question: How is EQIP funded?
Answer: Funding comes from the federal government's Commodity Credit Corporation. EQIP's authorized budget of $1.3 billion is prorated at $200 million per year through the year 2002.
Question: Who manages EQIP?
Answer: NRCS, in close cooperation with FSA, has leadership for EQIP. Conservation districts and FSA county committees have important roles in implementing EQIP at the local level. State Technical Committees offer advice on establishing EQIP activities at the state level.
Question: How can you find out more about EQIP and other USDA conservation programs?
Answer: NRCS, FSA, the local Extension Service, or local conservation districts can provide more information. Local USDA Service Centers are listed in the telephone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture. Information is also available on NRCS's World Wide Web site: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov..
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