The final rule for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program has been released. For decades, EQIP has provided financial help for specific projects or installations that address natural resource concerns.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says the EQIP rule contains a number of useful provisions to enhance the program. Positive elements of the rule include:
- Upholding the intended purpose of EQIP to help farmers and ranchers proactively conserve their resources,
- Defining assistance related to organic production as an EQIP purpose,
- Affirming the need for farmers to build soil health and climate resilience as national priorities within EQIP, and
- Reassurance that the EQIP advanced payment will be automatically applied to all underserved applicants.
There are also a number of points on which the new rule represents a missed opportunity to ensure that EQIP helps small and midsize farmers and ranchers maximize their conservation benefit for generations to come, NSAC said. These include:
- Doubling the payment rate for EQIP contracts from $450,000 to $900,000 for large farms owned by general partnerships,
- Asking CAFOs to put together a nutrient management plan as a requirement of receiving EQIP funding rather than requiring it,
- Refusing to specifically help EQIP producers address resource concerns in a way that would facilitate their graduation into the Conservation Stewardship Program
“NRCS had the opportunity to help EQIP better serve farmers and ranchers and conserve resources across the country through the comments they received,” said Eric Deeble, NSAC policy director. “We appreciate that NRCS seized some of these opportunities, but we are disappointed that they passed on others, leaving us with a program that does less for our farmers and ranchers than it could.”
NSAC will continue to advocate for a program that better matches the intent of Congress and serves the farmers who are on the leading edge of addressing the climate crisis and protecting our soil and water resources.