OPPORTUNITY!

EQIP–ing your farm with government money
With new money flowing into conservation and value-added programs we show you how easy it is to apply for government grants

By Cara Hungerford

EQIP -- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program -- was designed as a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers to promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. EQIP is not a grant program instead the government program relies on a ranking system to determine what projects will be cost-shared.

Registering for an EQIP grant is an easy two step process.


Step 1: Notify your local office of your interest. Contact your local office by telephone or download application form CCC1200 from http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/ This website is also a great resource for information on state and local priorities and contact information for your local branch.

Step 2: Confirm eligibility. Once you have submitted the application, you will be contacted by someone from your local office. Participation is contingent on a few eligibility requirements. For example, average adjusted gross income for the previous three years cannot exceed $2.5 million dollars, the participant must be a farmer or a rancher and the land in question must be used for agricultural purposes. But by government standards this program comes with relatively few hurdles to participation.

Getting the money, however, can be a little trickier, because the program relies on a ranking system. Success lies in how closely you stay to the priorities set by your local EQIP office. "The key is pre-information," says Anthony Esser, National EQIP program manager. "There is money available but the reality is 1 out of 6 applications is being funded." His advice, "Know the ranking process. If you want to build blue bird boxes but the area's priority is controlling the soil's
phosphorous levels, you are going to be a low priority."