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Environmental Quality Incentives Program


The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program that helps agricultural producers in a manner that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. Through EQIP, agricultural producers receive financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices that optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural land.

Accepting Applications

EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application "cut-off" or submission deadline dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. EQIP is open to all eligible agricultural producers and submitted applications may be considered or evaluated in multiple funding pool opportunities.

Each district conservationist working with a local work group has established local resource concerns, practices, and an application ranking process to prioritize applications for funding. Applications for EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis. However, each locality has a cutoff date for ranking applications, the first of which is Oct. 20, 2017 for fiscal year 2018 applications. A second statewide cutoff date to rank additional new 2018 applications has been established for March 16, 2018. NRCS may establish local, minimum ranking cutoff levels for funding selection. Use the "Link to County EQIP Information" for details on the county EQIP information.

Contact your local NRCS Field Office for additional information.

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit

To apply for EQIP, contact your local service center.


Agricultural producers and owners of non-industrial private forestland and Tribes are eligible to apply for EQIP. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forestland and other farm or ranch lands.

Applicants must:  

  • Control or own eligible land
  • Comply with adjusted gross income limitation (AGI)  provisions
  • Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements
  • Develop an NRCS EQIP plan of operations

Additional restrictions and program requirements may apply. 

Participant Responsibilities

Applicants are responsible for completing and filing all application and eligibility paperwork as required. If funded, participants are required to sign a contract and agree to implement the planned conservation practices to NRCS standards and specifications as scheduled.

Note: Starting a practice prior to written contract approval will result in the ineligibility of that practice for EQIP assistance, unless a waiver has been approved.

Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning, and Limited Resource Farmers/Ranchers, Military Veteran Farmers

The 2014 Farm Bill continues to address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers and Veteran Farmers. It provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services. Enhancements include increased payment rates and advance payments of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.

Iowa is committed to reaching out to Historically Underserved individuals and groups. Historically Underserved participants may also receive higher payment rates in addition to being considered in high priority funding pools. See the Small & Limited and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers page for the NRCS definition of the Historically Underserved.

National and State Priorities

The following national priorities, consistent with statutory resources concerns that include soil, water, wildlife, air quality, and related natural resource concerns, may be used in EQIP implementation:

  1. Reductions of nonpoint source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with total maximum daily loads (TMDL) where available; the reduction of surface and groundwater contamination; and the reduction of contamination from agricultural sources, such as animal feeding operations
  2. Conservation of ground and surface water resources
  3. Reduction of emissions, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and ozone precursors and depleters that contribute to air quality impairment violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards
  4. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
  5. Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
  6. Energy conservation to help save fuel, improve efficiency of water use, maintain production, and protect soil and water resources by more efficiently using fertilizers and pesticides and
  7. Biological carbon storage and sequestration

In addition, Iowa has identified the following priorities:

  1. Surface and subsurface water quality related to the presence of excessive nutrients and organics related to livestock production by animal feeding operations on open feedlots
  2. Plant condition and management to protect/improve pastureland, soil erosion control.
  3. Wildlife management to protect at risk wildlife species.

Decision Making Process for EQIP

Iowa NRCS, through the state technical committee, requested and received input on resource concerns, practices needed to treat the resource concerns, financial incentives and EQIP implementation. The State Technical Committee is a broad-based group of public and private agencies interested in natural resources protection, including agricultural commodity and agribusiness interests, federal, state and local agencies and environmental groups. The committee meets periodically to advise USDA-NRCS on the implementation of conservation programs in Iowa. Local work groups function similarly in each level of the Soil and Water Conservation District.

The majority of EQIP funds will be distributed through Iowa's 100 NRCS field offices. These funds are distributed based on the:

  • percent of agricultural land in the county with impaired waters due to agricultural concerns (as identified by Section 303(d) of Clean Water Act)
  • number of livestock in the county
  • soil types with a Land Capability Class IIe and greater
  • acres needing wildlife habitat conservation systems

Statewide guidance to local work groups includes:

  • EQIP financial assistance for eligible practices is based on a payment schedule. For a list of practice descriptions and payment rates, go to: FY2016 EQIP Practice Descriptions and Payment Rates. For the list of eligible practices in individual counties, go to: Link to County EQIP Information.
  • Property line fences which the applicant hs control of may be eligible for EQIP financial assistance, if needed as part of a grazing system.
  • Existing livestock facilities with an untreated resource concern are eligible for financial assistance for treatment of livestock waste. (New livestock facilities are not eligible.)
  • If a waste storage facility maximum payment is established at the local level, it cannot be less than $50,000.
  • Contracts that include treatment of livestock waste require a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) be developed prior to installation of the first practice. Contracts that include forestry practices require a Forest Management Plan prior to installation of the first practice. Contracts that include practices to convert to organic farming require an Organic Management Plan prior to installation of the first practice. All practices (contracted or not contracted) included in the management plans must be fully applied.
  • Payments for land management practices are to be limited to the minimum amount necessary to encourage the producer to apply the practice and are limited to no more than 3 years of payments.
  • Limited Resource Producers, Beginning Farmers, Tribal Farmers and Socially Disadvantaged Producers are eligible for a higher payment rate.

Iowa Common Resource Areas (CRA)

How to Apply

Visit your local USDA Service Center to apply, or visit

NRCS will help eligible producers develop an EQIP plan of operations, which will become the basis of the EQIP contract.

EQIP applications will be ranked based on a number of factors, including the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of the proposal.

The EQIP application is based on assistance and decisions reached with producers during the conservation planning process. EQIP applications are prioritized for funding using state, national and locally developed ranking criteria that consider cost-effectiveness, resources to be treated, meeting national EQIP priorities, compliance with federal, state or tribal environmental regulations or reducing the need for future regulations and, to a degree, the location of the contract. Funded EQIP applications result in a contract which lists the practices to be applied along with an application schedule and federal funds committed. Payment rate caps will be used to insure that contract payments are not higher than program rules allow. Conservation practices applied with EQIP funds are to be maintained for the service life of the practice, which may be longer than the term of the EQIP contract. The minimum contract length is one year after the implementation of the last scheduled practice. All contracts have a maximum contract length of ten years. Implemented practices are subject to NRCS technical standards. Farmers may elect to use NRCS or a Technical Service Provider for EQIP technical assistance.

EQIP Application Materials

Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) Area Ranking Criteria - Fiscal Year 2018

EQIP Initiatives in Iowa

EQIP Wildlife Habitat Information

2018 Wildlife Habitat Priority Maps

Iowa EQIP Popular Conservation Practices:

Iowa EQIP Results

More Information

For more information, visit your local USDA Service Center

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2008 Farm Bill Archived Information

Iowa NRCS EQIP Contact:
Paul Goldsmith, 515-284-4262