Incentives for modernizing

EQIP program offers valuable support & incentives

By John Farner

In addition to providing our nation’s food, feed, fuel and fiber, farmers and ranchers are also stewards of our nation’s natural resources. In the United States, agriculture accounts for nearly 214 million acres of land. More than 55 million acres of this land is under irrigation and in many areas accounts for as much as 60 percent of freshwater use. Our nation’s agricultural operations and natural resources are codependent on one another, and many aspects of government programs and policies recognize this codependence.

In 1996, Congress created the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP is a voluntary conservation title program that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who face threats to soil, water, air and related natural resources on their land. Through EQIP, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides financial incentives to producers to

• promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals.

• optimize environmental benefits.

• help farmers and ranchers meet federal, state, tribal and local environmental regulations.

State Natural Resources Conservation Service offices primarily administer EQIP, though they receive programmatic direction and funding from the national office. Funding for EQIP contracts is available through two avenues: 1) a general pool, and 2) national and state special initiatives, which highlight specific practices or natural resources. The national initiatives afford growers the opportunity to receive financial assistance

14 Irrigation TODAY | July 2017

on environmental initiatives deemed a priority by the chief of the NRCS. The current national priorities are air quality,

on-farm energy, high tunnel systems and organic production.uction.

ne Fortunately, irrigation and

agricultural water management continue to be a focus at both the national and state levels. Farmers are able to enter into single or multiyear contracts with the federal government to incorporate environmentally friendly farming practices, including water-saving measures, through the implementation of efficient irrigation technologies.

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EQIP may share up to 75 percent of the costs of certain conservation practices. However, socially disadvantaged, limited- resource, beginning, and veteran farmers and ranchers are eligible for cost-share rates of up to 90 percent of project costs. This same population of producers is also eligible for up to 50 percent advance payment for costs associated with planning, design, materials, equipment,

installation, labor, management, maintenance or training.

Farmers interested in entering into an EQIP contract should contact their irrigation dealer or local NRCS office. More information about EQIP, including contact information for state NRCS offices, can be found by visiting programs/eqip.

John Farner is IA’s

government and public affairs director, where

he works to advocate for the interests of Irrigation Association members.

The Government Accountability Office recently released its report following a review to determine whether EQIP funds are targeted where they will deliver the greatest environmental benefit.

Report title Agricultural Conservation: USDA’s Environmental Quality

Incentives Program Could Be Improved to Optimize Benefits Access the report For highlights

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