Input to NRCS on EQIP Rule
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[January 15, 2020]
Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS) seeks public comments on its interim rule for the
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), USDA’s flagship
program that helps producers plan and implement 150-plus
conservation practices on working lands. The rule – now available on
the Federal Register – takes effect upon publication and includes
changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill.
“The Environmental Quality Incentives Program gives Illinois
farmers and forest landowners the tools they need to improve
their agricultural operations while conserving natural
resources,” said Ivan Dozier, NRCS state conservationist in
Illinois. “The 2018 Farm Bill further strengthens this popular
conservation program so NRCS can better support locally led
conservation efforts while helping producers address significant
resource concerns on their land.”
NRCS will make available $1.2 billion nationwide for interested
producers in fiscal 2020. NRCS state offices will announce
signup periods for EQIP in Illinois in the coming weeks.
Changes to EQIP include:
§ Creating incentive contracts and payments for incentive
practices to better support locally led conservation needs.
§ Requiring NRCS to offer an advance payment option for
historically underserved producers.
§ Raising the payment cap for producers participating in the
Organic Initiative to $140,000 for contracts entered into
between fiscal 2019 through 2023.
§ Expanding the Conservation Innovation Grant program, which is
funded through EQIP, to include opportunities for On-Farm
Conservation Innovation Trials and Soil Health Demonstration
The 2018 Farm Bill created incentive contracts, which address up
to three priority resource concerns within targeted watersheds
and other high priority landscapes. While typical EQIP contracts
last five years, these contracts last five to 10 years.
The Farm Bill also enabled increased payments for priority
practices, through which NRCS can designate up to 10 practices
in each state to receive the higher rates.
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Submitting Your Comments
NRCS invites comments on this interim rule through February 17,
2020. Submit electronic comments through regulations.gov under
Docket ID NRCS-2019-0009. All written comments received will be
publicly available on
http://www.regulations.gov. Comments can indicate support
or offer new recommendations and considerations.
NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional
changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule
following public comment review.
Applying for EQIP
NRCS provides producers with financial resources and one-on-one help
to plan and implement conservation practices through EQIP. Popular
EQIP practices in Illinois include cover crops, nutrient management,
conservation tillage, forest stand improvement, prescribed grazing,
and practices related to water quality improvement. Implementing
conservation practices can lead to cleaner water and air, healthier
soil and better wildlife habitat while improving agricultural
EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis. If a
producer’s application is funded, NRCS will offer an EQIP contract
for financial assistance for the cost of implementing the practices.
Payment rates for conservation practices are reviewed and set each
For more information on how to sign up for EQIP in Illinois, visit
www.il.nrcs. usda.gov or
contact your local NRCS field office.
[Paige Mitchell Buck, NRCS]