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EQIP Program Has Multiple Initiatives

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Over the years, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has evolved into a program with several different emphasis areas. As of 2012, there are 5 different "Initiatives" under which the program funds conservation incentive payments. They are the Organic, On Farm Energy, Seasonal High Tunnels, Air Quality and Regular Initiatives. Each initiative includes a set of conservation practices to address its own conservation concern. Some of the conservation practices are offered in several of the initiatives, others are offered only in their respective initiative.

The Organic Initiative offers conservation practices to producers who are either Certified or Transitioning to being a Certified Organic Farmer by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program (AMS NOP). There are a total of 69 conservation practices available under the Organic Initiative. Most of the practices are commonly used on non-organic farms such as terraces, waterways and grade stabilization structures. However, one practice that is offered exclusively through the Organic Initiative is financial assistance for the development of a Conservation Plan supporting the transition to Organic Certification that must be completed by a registered Technical Service Provider.

The On Farm Energy Initiative provides incentives to farm managers to have an energy audit completed for their operation. It also assists farm managers implement the changes to their operations that are identified by the audit to reduce energy use on their farms.

The Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative provides financial incentives to producers to extend the growing season for high value crops in an environmentally safe manner by installing steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures. The incentive for the High Tunnel is limited to a structure that is 2,178 square feet in size. Incentives for complimenting practices such as cover crops, irrigation, grass waterways, nutrient management and others can be received in addition to the High Tunnel Incentive.

Each year the Air Quality Initiative is offered in nationally selected states and counties. Missouri currently has no county in which this initiative is offered.

The General or Regular Initiative offers incentive payments on a wide range of conservation practices. There are 61 practices on which incentive payments are offered in Missouri. They include practices commonly used in the state, such as Terraces, Underground Tile Outlets, Grass Waterways and Grade Stabilization Structures. There are practices for cropland, pasture and hay land, animal waste, forest land and wildlife. The law that authorizes the EQIP Program mandates that 60% of the total funds must be used for animal related practices, so there are incentives for fence, water distribution systems and manure handling, management and storage.

Application for all of the initiatives of this program and all other federal USDA programs can be made at any time. However, a deadline is established for competing for the funding received for each year. Any application received within the fiscal year (October 1 to September 30) prior to the established deadline will be considered through a ranking process established for each program. The deadline for the current funding is February 3, 2012. Any application received after that date will be considered in the next funding period.

To apply, applicants must sign an application form at their local NRCS Field Office. They must also make sure all eligibility criteria is met, including certifying their Adjusted Gross Income, certifying their compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland provisions of the Farm Bill and establishing electronic payment accounts.

For more information contact your local NRCS Field Office. In Saline County, contact

NRCS
704 N. Miami
Marshall, MO 65340
Telephone: (660) 886-7447, extension 3
Email: steve.wooden@mo.usda.gov

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