By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy
In NFU’s Climate Column, we’ve discussed a number of practices, including cover crops and no-till, that can build soil fertility with fewer inputs, thus saving producers money. Conservation planning with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can be an important first step toward implementing such practices, but other programs offer additional assistance. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is one such program. Five percent of the funds are specifically designated for beginning producers, and the program also has special initiatives for organic producers and to encourage the use of high tunnels.
Through EQIP, NRCS contracts with participants to install physical features or to execute management practices with conservation benefits, providing financial and technical assistance for the participant’s efforts. Producers do not choose practices on their own; instead, they identify resource concerns, and then they work with NRCS to select the measures to most effectively address those concerns on their property. Most EQIP contracts run two or three years, and are limited to ten years. NRCS can contribute up to 75 percent of the cost of certain practices, or up to 90 percent for beginning, limited-resource, socially disadvantaged, or veteran producers. Further, producers in these groups can also receive up to 50 percent of the cost in advance, while other producers have to wait for reimbursement.
Applications for EQIP are ranked against one another using standards set by NRCS nationally and in each state. Applicants who rank high enough to participate will need to develop a conservation plan with NRCS. Participating producers will also need a DUNS Number and completed System for Award Management (SAM) registration before financial assistance can be distributed. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but individual states set deadlines for application periods. Find out more about the program here, or visit your local NRCS office.
Have you considered participating in EQIP? What resource concerns would you address on your operation?