Sign up now for 2015 Environmental Quality Incentives Program
Virginia farmers and forest land owners can now apply for assistance to protect the health and productivity of their land under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
EQIP is one of USDA’s most popular Farm Bill conservation programs. Under this program, NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to plan and install conservation practices on cropland, pastureland and non-industrial private forestland. In 2014, NRCS provided nearly $20 million in EQIP contracts to help Virginia farmers improve water quality, soil quality and wildlife habitat.
NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at specific times. Application cutoff dates for the first FY15 EQIP ranking period is November 21, 2014.
Wade Biddix, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, noted it is important for farmers to get program applications in early to be eligible for limited funding. “Conservation plans must be developed for the area that is included in an EQIP contract,” he said. “When farmers develop a complete conservation plan for their farm, it speeds up the application process and oftentimes practices are applied more strategically.”
Eligible producers who sign up for the program may receive a payment based on the statewide average cost for installing planned conservation practices. Socially disadvantaged, limited resource and beginning farmers and ranchers are eligible for a higher payment rate. Veteran farmers who are also new or beginning farmers receive the higher payment rate and will be funded first.
Special pools are also available for On-Farm Energy, Specialty Crops and Organic, Longleaf Pine and Seasonal High Tunnel conservation practices, as well as a number of landscape based initiatives. All offer technical and financial assistance through the EQIP program.
- On-Farm Energy: NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy use on the farm and recommend ways to reduce energy use. Funding is available for implementation after farmers get an approved energy audit.
- Longleaf Pine: NRCS has special funding dedicated to the establishment and management of longleaf pines within the historical range of that species in Southeastern Virginia.
- Specialty Crops and Organic: NRCS helps certified organic growers working to achieve organic certification and farmers who have specialty crops install conservation practices to address resource concerns on their operations.
- Seasonal High Tunnel (Hoop House): NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels – steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. Farmers who completed a hoop house under the 2008 Farm Bill are also eligible to apply for a hoop house under the current 2014 Farm Bill.
The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) was rescinded by the 2014 Farm Bill. However the wildlife concerns were included in the EQIP Program and a minimum of five percent of the available EQIP funding is to be used for wildlife purposes. Landowners interested in establishing wildlife practices or pollinator habitat can apply under the EQIP program.
If you are interested in Farm Bill programs, contact Charles J. Ivins, District Conservationist, at 540-248-6218 Ext. 122 or firstname.lastname@example.org to identify and plan the conservation measures you would like to implement on your land. NRCS staff will help you develop a plan, identify recommended practices, and pursue funding through one of the many Farm Bill program options available.