USDA Seeks Input on Environmental Quality Incentives Rule

USDA Seeks Input on Environmental Quality Incentives Rule

Russell Nemetz
Russell Nemetz
The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service 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 farmers, ranchers and forest landowners the tools they need to improve their agricultural operations while conserving natural resources," NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said. "The 2018 Farm Bill further strengthens this popular conservation program to enable NRCS to better support locally led conservation efforts while also expanding producers' ability to address significant resource concerns."

NRCS will make available $1.2 billion for interested producers in fiscal 2020. NRCS state offices will announce signup periods for EQIP 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 Trails and Soil Health Demonstration Trials.

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.

NRCS invites comments on this interim rule through Feb. 18. Electronic comments must be submitted through offsite link image under Docket ID NRCS-2019-0009. All written comments received will be publicly available on

NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule following public comment review.

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