The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced its updated rule for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The final EQIP rule makes updates to the program that were part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Changes to the program have been made with input from agricultural producers and a variety of industry stakeholders. More than 600 comments were submitted since the interim rule was published in December 2019.
“This final rule enables us to continue helping producers manage their land in the most beneficial ways possible,” NRCS assistant state conservationist for Farm Bill programs RaeAnn Dubay said in a news release. “EQIP offers producers more than 150 conservation practices and helps bridge the gap between their concerns and the opportunity to implement solutions.”
The final EQIP rule makes multiple changes to Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) such as the specific inclusion field research. CIG projects designed to assist historically underserved producers will also have a reduction to matching requirements. Soil health, weather, and drought resistance have been highlighted as national priorities. Modifications were also made to Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) requirements which include their progressive implementation. The CNMP definition was also clarified to ensure only applicable natural resources are considered.
Other changes to EQIP include adjustments related to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). EQIP will now provide assistance for organic producers transitioning their ground from the CRP. The ranking protocols will also include the consideration of an applicant’s status under CRP. The final EQIP rule was published in the Federal Register on October 26.
NRCS helps producers to plan and implement conservation practices such as cover cropping and irrigation efficiency improvements through EQIP. Announcements for California funding selections for EQIP will be made early next year. EQIP applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. The payment rates for conservation practices are reviewed and established for each fiscal year.