Iowa farmers and ranchers looking to implement conservation practices on their operations have until Dec. 18 to apply for assistance through the 2021 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), EQIP one of the nation’s most popular working lands programs, with thousands of farmers and ranchers enrolling each year. The program offers producers financial and technical assistance for a variety of conservation practices
“EQIP is a good option for farmers and ranchers looking to solve a specific problem on the farm or ranch,” said Kate Hansen, policy assistant for the Center for Rural Affairs. “The program can be helpful for trying out cover crops, developing a rotational grazing system, or planting a more complex crop rotation.”
In applying for EQIP, farmers and ranchers work with local NRCS office staff to develop a conservation plan for their operations. This can include cropping and grazing management.
“EQIP can prepare them for practicing greater conservation down the line,” Hansen said. “The key is making these changes in manageable increments. It’s much easier to sustain conservation practices when you don’t try to overhaul your whole operation at once.”
The 2018 farm bill made several changes to EQIP, which the NRCS is in the final stages of rolling out. One notable change in the recently-released final rule makes beginning farmers and ranchers eligible to receive a portion of their cost-share payments at the start of their contract, rather than after the work is completed. Beginners interested in this option should take care to clarify up front with NRCS the payment and work schedules.
Farmers and ranchers interested in applying for EQIP should contact their local NRCS office as soon as possible. To find your local office, visit nrcs.usda.gov. NRCS accepts conservation program applications on a continuous basis, but the Dec. 18 deadline is the cutoff date for fiscal year 2021 financial assistance.