The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently released the interim final rule for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. If you would like to comment to the USDA about the EQIP changes, please do so before Feb. 10, 2015.
The USDA press release indicates that “EQIP now includes program changes authorized by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill. The proposed rule:
- Increases the advanced payment for eligible, historically underserved producers to purchase material or contract services from 30 percent to up to 50 percent.
- Targets assistance to veteran farmers and ranchers.
- Increases the cap for EQIP funds for benefits received during 2014 – 2018 from $300,000 to a maximum of $450,000, and eliminates waivers to exceed this level.
- Establishes EQIP as a contributing program for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
- Requires at least 5 percent of available EQIP funds be targeted for conservation practices that promote wildlife habitats.
- Incorporates the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program functions.”
The rule also includes a provision that allows the Secretary of Agriculture to waive the requirement that EQIP funds for on-farm irrigation efficiency are only available for lands that have been irrigated for two out of the last five years. This waiver is limited to “historically underserved producers,” including tribal lands.