The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service offers voluntary Farm Bill conservation programs that benefit agricultural producers and the environment.
Eligible program participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices, or activities like conservation planning, that address natural resource concerns on their land. Payments are made to participants after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP plan of operations are implemented. Contracts can last up to ten years in duration.
Agricultural producers and owners of non-industrial private forestland and Tribes are eligible to apply for EQIP. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forestland and other farm or ranch lands.
Socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers, Indian tribes and veterans are eligible for an increased payment rate and may receive advance payment of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.
How to apply
Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.
NRCS will help eligible producers develop an EQIP plan of operations, which will become the basis of the EQIP contract.
EQIP applications will be ranked based on a number of factors, including the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of the proposal.
What’s New in EQIP
- The former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program was folded into EQIP.
- Advance payment opportunities now exist for veteran agricultural
- Advance payments for socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers, Indian tribes and veterans were raised from 30 percent to 50 percent.
- Payment limitations are set at $450,000 with no ability to waive
Contact: Cory Hodge @ 931-684-1441 x3
Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE)
Wetland Reserve Easements
NRCS also provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners and Indian tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a wetland reserve easement. For acreage owned by an Indian tribe, there is an additional enrollment option of a 30-year contract.
Through the wetland reserve enrollment options, NRCS may enroll eligible land through:
Permanent Easements – Permanent easements are conservation easements in perpetuity. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 75 to 100 percent of the restoration costs.
30-year Easements – 30-year easements expire after 30 years. Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.
Term Easements - Term easements are easements that are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable State laws. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the term easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.
30-year Contracts – 30-year contracts are only available to enroll acreage owned by Indian tribes, and program payment rates are commensurate with 30-year easements.
For wetland reserve easements, NRCS pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance.
Contact: Cory Hodge @ 931-684-1441 x3
Agricultural Resource Conservation Fund (ARC Fund)
The Agriculture Resources Conservation Fund (ARCF) provides cost-share assistance to Tennessee landowners to install Best Management Practices (BMPs) that reduce agricultural water pollution. This assistance is facilitated primarily through Soil Conservation Districts although Resource Conservation and Development Councils, universities, and other agricultural associations may participate.
A wide range of BMPs are available for cost-share, from those that curtail soil erosion to ones that help to remove pollutants from water runoff from agricultural operations. Landowners may be eligible to receive up to 75% of the cost of a BMP installation. Part of the fund is available for educational projects which raise awareness of soil erosion/water quality problems and promote BMP use.
The Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program provides funding to the Water Resources Program to assist Soil Conservation Districts with lessening soil erosion and improving water quality through:
- Technical assistance costs
- Conservation field day expenses
- Procurement of specialty agricultural equipment
Participants are encouraged to apply for funds on a watershed-oriented basis, with emphasis on waters listed on the state’s 303(d) List as being impaired by agriculture.
Contact: David Scocchio @ 931-684-1441 x3
Duck River Watershed Buffer
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation - Duck River Watershed Buffer Initiative
The Tennessee Valley Authority in cooperation with the Bedford County Soil Conservation District, NRCS, the Nature Conservancy, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency have partnered in an initiative to promote and establish riparian stream buffers in the Duck River watershed in an effort to improve water quality and enhance terrestrial and aquatic habitats.
In furtherance of this initiative, funds are being made available to landowners with land holdings bordering streams in the Duck River watershed in order to establish riparian buffers. These riparian buffers, planted strips of land along water bodies, will consist of native warm season grasses, wildlife/pollinator habitat, or trees. Livestock, crops, and hay production will be excluded from these buffer areas adjacent to the streams.
The Duck River is over 270 miles long and is home to over 500 species of aquatic plants, fish, and invertebrates making it one of the most biologically diverse rivers in North America. Any landowners interested in participating in this initiative are urged to contact the Bedford County Soil Conservation District.
Contact: David Scocchio @ 931-684-1441 x3
Conservation Stewardship Program
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment.
Through CSP, participants take additional steps to improve the resource conditions on their land—including soil, air and habitat quality, water quality and quantity, and energy conservation.
CSP provides two types of payments through five-year contracts: annual payments for installing new conservation activities and maintaining existing practices; and supplemental payments for adopting a resource-conserving crop rotation. Producers may be able to renew a contract if they have successfully fulfilled the initial contract and agree to achieve additional conservation objectives. Payments are made soon as practical after October 1 of each fiscal year for contract activities installed and maintained in the previous year.
Eligible lands include private and Tribal agricultural lands, cropland, grassland, pastureland, rangeland and nonindustrial private forest land. CSP is available to all producers, regardless of operation size or type of crops produced, in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Caribbean and Pacific Island areas. Applicants may include individuals, legal entities, joint operations or Indian tribes that meet the stewardship threshold for at least two priority resource concerns when they apply. They must also agree to meet or exceed the stewardship threshold for at least one additional priority resource concern by the end of the contract.
Producers must have effective control of the land for the term of the proposed contract. Contracts include all eligible land in the agricultural operation.
Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply.
What’s New in CSP
The 2014 Farm Bill increased the program’s focus on generating additional conservation benefits, removed the limitation on the number of nonindustrial private forestland acres that can be enrolled in CSP, and increased flexibility to enroll land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program.
Payment Limit: A person or legal entity may not receive more than $200,000 during fiscal years 2014 through 2018.