The USDA announced the release of an additional $275 million in funds for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that promotes environmental quality. Farmers and ranchers may receive financial and technical assistance for certain conservation practices, such as nutrient management, integrated pest management and wildlife habitat management on eligible agricultural land.
“These additional funds will enable farmers and ranchers to enhance and protect our nation’s soil, air and water resources for the future by implementing sound conservation practices today,” said Veneman. “Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land and this Administration continues its strong commitment in providing additional tools to enhance conservation efforts on working farmlands.”
Of that total amount, $200 million is for general enrollment for the EQIP for fiscal year 2002, $25 million is to provide technical and financial assistance for ground and surface water conservation and $50 million is to carry out water conservation activities in the Klamath Basin in California and Oregon.
The 2002 Farm Bill includes major changes for EQIP to help farmers and ranchers live up to newer and higher environmental standards, encourage sound conservation and greatly enhance the ability of our farmers and ranchers to protect wetlands, water quality and wildlife habitat.
These changes include:
- Making the program available to more landowners by eliminating the concentration of funding to certain areas.
- Optimizing environmental benefits based on national, state and local resource priorities.
- Eliminating the competitive bidding process, thus allowing small and limited resource farmers to compete on an equal basis with larger producers.
- Removing the 1,000-animal-unit limitation on livestock operations eligible to receive financial assistance.
- Streamlining the application and planning process.
- Decreasing the minimum EQIP contract length from five years to one year after the last practice is installed. (Maximum contract length remains the same at 10 years).
- Allowing a producer to receive payment after the first practice is installed. Previously a landowner could not receive payment for practices installed during the first year of the contract period.
- Establishing a maximum payment limitation of $450,000 for the total of EQIP contracts entered into by an individual or entity. This flexibility will accommodate today’s cost of business and will help producers comply with newer and higher environmental standards.
- Providing for incentive payments to producers to develop and implement comprehensive nutrient management plans for confined livestock feed operations.
For more information about EQIP and other conservation programs, please contact your local USDA Service Center, listed in the telephone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture, or your local conservation district. Information also is available on the World Wide Web at: http://www.usda.gov/farmbill