EQIP Deadline Approaching

If you are a farmer or rancher interested in soil, water, and/or wildlife conservation, sign-ups for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are due on or before October 16, 2015.

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program available to private landowners and operators.  Farmers and ranchers may receive financial and technical help to install conservation practices on agricultural land.

There are several options available to producers through EQIP, including cost share and technical assistance to apply conservation measures on cropland and rangeland, animal feeding operations, and establishing or enhancing wildlife habitat.  NRCS staff are available to assist in determining the EQIP options available.

 

Deadlines Approaching for Farm Program Sign-Ups

As we approach the spring and the planting season, it is a good idea to take a long, hard look at the various programs available for assistance and their respective deadlines.  In chronological order:

Conservation Stewardship Program — The deadline for CSP sign-up is extended to Friday, March 13, 2015.  We’ve previously discussed CSP and the benefits that may accrue to applicants.  If you are interested, head over to your local NRCS office to complete the initial two-page application.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program — EQIP has rolling deadlines of March 20, April 17, and May 15.  EQIP is a voluntary working lands program offering farmers and ranchers cost-share funding and technical assistance.  EQIP now provides up to a 50% cost-share for beginning and limited resource farmers.  EQIP can help fund a number of projects, including high tunnels, organic conservation, and other conservation practices.  Like CSP, just head over to your local NRCS office for more information as it varies state by state.

Organic Production Survey — The survey is due April 3, 2015.  The survey is specifically for the organic sector, to determine growth, trends, and challenges.  The survey may be taken electronically, so feel free to review our previous article and let the USDA know what you think.

 

What’s in the Farm Bill for Beginning Farmers?

This post does not promise to be a comprehensive review of all the new programs and funding in the new Farm Bill.  Rather, it is a short review for you to begin to think about ways in which you can potentially use some new programs or additional funding in the Farm Bill for your own operation.  (For a thorough review of the beginning farmer initiatives, click here.)

So what’s in there?

  • Additional funding for beginning farmer and rancher training and outreach programs.  This website and program is funded via the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.  That program has received additional funding with a new emphasis on military veteran farmers.
  • Enhanced premium subsidies for crop insurance.  The enhanced subsidy of 10 percent points is only for a beginning farmer in the first five years of his/her farming career.
  • The Farm Service Agency’s microloan program becomes permanent.  For beginning and military veteran farmers, microloans will no longer have a term limit.
  • Additionally, the FSA will continue to prioritize beginning farmers in its direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loan programs.
  • NRCS’ EQIP program will continue to cost-share with beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers.  Additionally, while a farmer can current receive up to 30% of a project’s cost in advance, the new farm bill increases the possible cost-share to 50%.
  • Land access is obviously an important topic and there are some new initiatives for beginning farmers.  The FSA Down Payment Loan Program increases the value of land eligible from $500,000 to $667,000. A new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, per the Land Trust Alliance:

The Agricultural Lands Easement program (ALE) combines the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). ALE is part of the larger Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which also contains the former Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

  • There are some additional provisions, such as conservation funding and a return of the Transition Incentive Program (with an increase in funding) administered by the FSA.  There are also some clarifications within the Value Added Producer program defining beginning farmer status in multi-applicant applications.

Overall, there are some interesting opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers in the new Farm Bill.  As the new programs, additional funding, and more details become available, we’ll know more about how to maximize use of the programs for specific types of operations.  But as of now, there appears to be a significant amount of promise in the new Farm Bill for beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers, and veteran farmers.

 

What is EQIP?

If you have an interest in soil, water, and wildlife conservation, Nebraska NRCS is now accepting applications for its EQIP program.

What is EQIP?

EQIP stands for Environmental Quality Incentives Program.  It is a voluntary program designed to assist owners of land in agriculture or forest production in soil, water, and wildlife conservation.  The owner of the land enters into a contract with a maximum term of ten years (although most are three to four years); the contracts provide financial assistance via cost-sharing to plan and implement conservation practices that are appropriate for the land and the owner’s conservation goals.

How does EQIP work?

EQIP applications are subject to a competitive process, in which the applications are ranked.  Nebraska offers special incentives for water conservation in the Ogalalla Aquifer, energy conservation, and conversion to organic production.  How the ranking is determined varies by state.

Does EQIP assist beginning farmers and ranchers?

Absolutely.  In fact, if all other application requirements are met, beginning farmers, socially-disadvantaged farmers, and limited-resource farmers may receive greater financial assistance of 25% above the applicable cost-share percentage.  What this means is if a resource practice has a cost-share of 50%, a beginning farmer or rancher will receive 75% cost-share from EQIP.

Additionally, five percent of EQIP funding is set aside for beginning farmers and ranchers and another five percent is set aside for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Can I only apply once?

No.  As long as you meet the eligibility criteria, you may continue to apply for EQIP funds.

Can I receive unlimited monetary assistance?

Smart question but the answer is no.  Payments are limited to $300,000 for all contracts entered into during a six year period.  Payments for technical assistance are excluded from the $300,000 limitation.  Further, payments for organic production may not exceed $20,000 per year or $80,000 during any six year period.

If NRCS determines your project has special environmental significance, an applicant may petition the NRCS Chief for the payment limitation to be raised to $450,000.

When are applications due?

Nebraska applications can be accepted at any time but ranking for applications on hand will begin on November 15, 2013.  A second round of ranking has a cut-off date of January 17, 2014.