New criteria for EQIP implementation
by Gerald Miller, College of Agriculture; Larry Beeler, Natural Resources Conservation Service; and Deb Ryun, Conservation Districts of Iowa
President Bush signed the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (the Farm Bill) on May 13, 2002. The Farm Bill introduces significant new changes to the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). As a result, the procedures are required to be modified for the implementation of EQIP practices for the current fiscal year. However, implementation of these new changes cannot commence until the rules are finalized. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has 90 days from the date of the bill signing to develop the rules for the current fiscal year. Promulgation of the rules is anticipated to occur on August 13. Funds for the current fiscal year can be released after the promulgation of the rules and must be allocated by September 30, 2002.
The purpose of EQIP, as described in the legislation, is to promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals and to optimize environmental benefits in addressing national resource priorities by doing the following:
The guidance in the Farm Bill for EQIP indicates that priority is to be assigned to applications that encourage the use of the most cost-effective practices that address the previous list of priorities and optimize environmental benefits. A major change from the previous EQIP is that priority geographic areas or projects defined on a watershed basis are no longer required. Other changes include the following:
To implement the guiding principles defined in the purpose of EQIP, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff convened a subcommittee that represents a cross section of the nearly 40 organizations, agencies, and institutions that form the NRCS State Technical Committee. These representatives developed an EQIP evaluation worksheet to score applications submitted for fiscal year 2002 (FY02) funding and to prioritize the applications for funding. This worksheet was presented to the State Technical Committee on June 13 and approved by the full committee.
The worksheet assigns points in five major categories: 1) legislative criteria, 2) livestock criteria, 3) water quality measures, 4) soil quality planning, and 5) wildlife habitat establishment or improvement. The greatest number of points can be accumulated for applications that address any one or a combination of these criteria, measures, and practices. For example, in the legislative category points will be awarded for land tracts that are located in an impaired watershed [EPA section 303(d) list] or in a watershed that outlets directly into an impaired watershed. Also, points will be awarded if the application is for a livestock manure storage system to treat a high-risk situation as evaluated by the Iowa Environmental Priority Assessment for Open Feedlot program. In the category of livestock criteria, points will be awarded for those applications that address an existing animal manure concern or replacement of an existing facility. Fewer points would be assigned for expanding an existing facility or constructing a new facility. In the soil quality category points will be allocated for implementation of a resource management system.
In addition, the State Technical Committee agreed that applications for FY02 funding will be submitted to the state level and evaluated using the EQIP evaluation worksheet. The justification for centralizing the evaluation of applications for this year is because of the short period of time, less than 45 days, that will be available to allocate funds and because Iowa will be positioned to participate as a recipient of funds that are redistributed nationally by NRCS before September 30, 2002. It is anticipated that the rules and implementation procedures for evaluating applications will be reviewed after October 1, 2002, for allocation of FY03 EQIP funds.
Applications for FY02 EQIP funding are to be submitted at the local soil and water conservation district office. Producers are encouraged to contact their local NRCS office staff to discuss the details of the application process and to review the worksheet that will be used to evaluate applications.
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Page last updated October 5, 2004
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