GAINESVILLE — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), climate-smart practices through EQIP and CSP funded by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
While NRCS accepts applications year-round, Florida producers and landowners should apply by Nov. 17, 2023, to be considered for funding in the FY2024 current cycle.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Through EQIP, NRCS provides agricultural producers with one-on-one help and financial assistance to plan and implement conservation practices to address a variety of issues such as water quality degradation, soil erosion, soil quality degradation, and inadequate habitat for fish and wildlife.
1. Applicant Eligibility
• Engaged in agricultural production or forestry management or have an interest in the agricultural or forestry operation associated with the land offered for enrollment
• Be within the applicable EQIP payment limitations
2. Land Eligibility
• Land on which agricultural commodities, livestock, or forest-related products are produced, and specifically includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, nonindustrial private forestland, other agricultural land such as environmentally sensitive areas, and agricultural land used to produce livestock
3. Resource Concern Eligibility
• At least one natural resource concern must be identified and addressed with a conservation practice or activity
EQIP-IRA applications must include at least one core Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry (CSAF) conservation practice or activity that directly improves soil carbon, reduces nitrogen losses, or reduces, captures, avoids or sequesters carbon dioxide, methane or nitrous emissions associated with agricultural productions. Facilitating practices or activities that are needed to implement the core practice may also be included.
Florida NRCS’ IRA focus for FY24 will include but is not limited to Improving energy efficiency of stationary equipment and facilities on agriculture operations to reduce energy use; increasing total carbon stored in soils and/or perennial biomass to reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and enhance carbon sequestration.
Through CSP, NRCS works one-on-one with producers to develop a conservation plan that outlines and enhances existing efforts while improving their agricultural operations.
Using new conservation practices or activities, agricultural producers can adopt practices and activities that expand on the benefits of cleaner water and air, healthier soil, and better wildlife habitat, all based on management objectives specific to their farming operation.
An NRCS conservation planner works closely with the landowner throughout the entire contract process. Contract payments are based on two components:
• Payments to maintain the existing level of conservation, based on the land uses included in the contract and an NRCS assessment of existing stewardship at the time of enrollment.
• Payments to implement additional conservation activities.
NRCS may provide a minimum annual payment of $1,500 in any year the Chief determines the total contract payment amount is below a base level.
Eligible CSP lands include:
• Associated Ag Land
• Non-industrial private forestland
Eligible CSP persons include:
• Agricultural producers
• Indian Tribes
• Owners of non-industrial private forestland
• Those with an interest in the agricultural or forestry operations
Through RCPP, NRCS seeks to co-invest with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes tied to the resource concerns they seek to address. Further information on individual projects and eligibility will be forthcoming.
Applicants will need to provide records and forms necessary to establish farm records and certifications outlined below.
• Farm records established or updated with the Farm Service Agency for the applicant and the land.
• Be in compliance with highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements.
• Meet the adjusted gross income (AGI) and payment limitation provisions.
• Applicable documentation required for signature authority.
• Have control of land where “control” means possession of the land by ownership, lease, or other agreement.
• Written concurrence from the landowner to apply a structural or vegetative conservation practice.
• Be in compliance with provisions for protecting the interests of tenants and sharecroppers.
Applications are available at your local USDA Service Center or online on our Get Started with NRCS web page and will be accepted until Nov. 17, 2023.
NRCS has 34 field offices throughout Florida with teams ready to help landowners with conservation programs. Contact your local NRCS field office for more information. For more information, download the EQIP fact sheet and CSP fact sheet (PDF).
If applications are received after the current sign up of Nov. 17, 2023, applications will automatically be considered during future funding cycles.