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Swine Producers Should Be Aware of Eqip

Livestock Update, March 1997

Allen Harper, Extension Swine Specialist, Virginia Tech

The 1996 Farm Bill established a new conservation program that potentially could have positive impacts on swine or other livestock farms which face waste management challenges. The program is called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program or EQIP.

EQIP was established with the principle purpose of providing technical, financial and educational assistance for producers to address priority environment and natural resource concerns. Several former USDA conservation programs including the Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP) and the Water Quality Incentives Program are to be replaced by the new EQIP program.

EQIP is unique to some former federal conservation programs in that state and local agencies are to define priority areas for use of the cost share funds provided by USDA. Nationwide, EQIP provides $130 million in it's first fiscal year and $200 million annually thereafter. Livestock related conservation or environmental protection practices are designated to receive 50 percent of total program cost-share funding. The program specifies that the maximum cost-share amount per producer is $10,000 for any fiscal year and no more than $50,000 for any multi-year contract.

One controversial component of EQIP, particularly as it relates to swine producers, is the language in the 1996 Farm Bill Act that indicates that producers who own a "large" confined livestock operation are not eligible for EQIP cost-share to construct animal waste handling and treatment facilities. The Act indicates that the definition of a large confined feeding operation would be developed by the Secretary of Agriculture. The apparent intent of this language was to make EQIP cost-share benefits principally available to family sized farming operations and not to large corporate livestock producing entities.

Ironically, this language could make it difficult for medium size operations to receive cost-share benefits. Of particular concern is the possible selection of an operation size cap such as a maximum of 1000 animal units. By EPA definition, 1,000 animal units are equivalent to 2,500 pigs that are 55 pounds or greater in weight. Under this scenario an independent farrow-to-finish swine operation maintaining 380 breeding sows and 2200 market hogs on feed would not be eligible. Likewise, a contract swine grower who owns and stocks three or more 880-head finishing barns would not be eligible.

Based on these types of concerns, the Secretary of Agriculture has charged each state Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to determine the size of cost-share eligible operations in their respective states. NRCS is also charged with determining priority areas within each state where EQIP cost-share programs would have the greatest environmental benefit. These determinations are currently being developed, hopefully with input from swine producers and other livestock producers and producer groups.

Interested producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service officials to obtain details about the EQIP program and if EQIP has potential for direct application to their operation.

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