Implementing new conservation practices has many benefits for farms and ranches, but can sometimes be cost prohibitive for beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged producers. However, there are conservation programs that can help with those costs, even upfront.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is one of the nation’s leading working lands conservation programs. EQIP helps producers implement new practices on active operations by providing both financial and technical assistance.
EQIP also has options for historically underserved producers to make sure they have equitable access. This includes an advanced payment option to help cover upfront costs. It is important for producers to know if they are eligible and to discuss this option with their NRCS agent.
Through the advanced payment option, eligible producers receive 50% or more of the associated cost up front, and are reimbursed for the remainder. This reduces the pressure on eligible farmers and ranchers to come up with the necessary capital to start new conservation efforts.
Many types of farmers qualify. Beginning farmers, those who have operated a farm or ranch for less than 10 consecutive years, are eligible. Veteran farmers also qualify. This status applies to those who have served in the armed forces and operated a farm or ranch for less than 10 consecutive years, or first obtained veteran status during the past 10 years.
Limited resource farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers are eligible as well. Limited resource farmers are those who have a household income at or below the federal poverty level. Socially disadvantaged farmers are members of a group that has been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices and injustices, such as Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.
To learn more about EQIP, visit cfra.org/publications/implementingconservation or contact your local NRCS office.
Kelsey Willardson is a policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs. Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action-oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.