2014 Farm Bill Field Guide

Working Lands

Photo by Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Between 2009 and 2012, 1.5 million acres were planted with cover crops and prescribed grazing techniques were implemented on over 21 million acres using EQIP funding. Nearly 60 million acres of crop, forest, pasture, and rangeland are currently enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program – accounting for nearly 7 percent of farm and ranch land nationwide.  
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Environmental Quality Incentives Program
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. The goal of the program is to enhance natural resources, particularly through improvements to soil health, conservation of water resources, improving air and water quality, enhancing habitat, and more. Through EQIP, landowners receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices or conduct conservation planning. A core purpose of EQIP is to help landowners comply with or avoid the need for environmental regulations.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) was consolidated into EQIP. As a result, a minimum of 5 percent of overall EQIP funding must be used for improving or creating wildlife habitat in each fiscal year. Due to this consolidation and EQIP’s consistently higher funding levels, EQIP has become one of the most important Farm Bill programs for fish and wildlife conservation.

EQIP is one of the largest funded Farm Bill programs with a congressional authorization of $8 billion through 2018. However, Congress can cap funding levels within annual appropriations bills at less than the authorized level.

Conservation Stewardship Program
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) encourages producers to maintain and improve existing conservation practices while implementing additional activities that address priority resource concerns. CSP was designed to support landowners that improve soil, water, air, and wildlife habitat quality as well as energy and water use on their working lands. 

Participants in CSP receive annual land use payments for the environmental benefits that they produce across the operation – the higher the operational performance the higher the payment. Lands that are in their final year of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) enrollment can be enrolled in CSP allowing continued stewardship on these environmentally sensitive lands. In addition, lands that are protected under Agricultural Land Easements in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) can enroll in CSP.

The program is authorized to enroll up to 10 million acres each fiscal year until 2018 and expected CSP outlays between 2014 and 2018 are over $2 billion.