U.S. Code of Federal Regulations

Regulations most recently checked for updates: Apr 01, 2023

§ 1466.1 - Applicability.

(a) Purposes. (1) The purposes of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are to promote agricultural production, forest management, and environmental quality as compatible goals, and to optimize environmental benefits.

(2) Through EQIP, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to eligible agricultural producers, including nonindustrial private forest (NIPF) landowners and Indian Tribes, to help implement conservation practices that address resource concerns related to organic production; soil, water, and air quality; wildlife habitat; nutrient management associated with crops and livestock; pest management; ground and surface water conservation; irrigation management; drought resiliency measures; adapting to and mitigating against increasing weather volatility; energy conservation; and related resource concerns.

(3) EQIP's financial and technical assistance helps:

(i) Producers comply with environmental regulations and enhance agricultural and forested lands in a cost-effective and environmentally beneficial manner; and

(ii) To the maximum extent practicable, avoid the need for resource and regulatory programs.

(4) The purposes of EQIP are achieved by planning and implementing conservation practices on eligible land to address identified, new, or expected resource concerns, including such resource concerns related to lands enrolled under a Conservation Reserve Program contract that are transitioning into production as specified in 16 U.S.C. 3835(f).

(b) Availability. EQIP is available in any of the 50 States, District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands of the United States, American Samoa, and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

(c) Applicability. Each contract enrolled into EQIP, is subject to the regulations in effect on the date it is enrolled.

[84 FR 69280, Dec. 17, 2019, as amended at 85 FR 67647, Oct. 26, 2020]

§ 1466.2 - Administration.

(a) The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds, facilities, authorities. Because the funds, facilities, and authorities of the CCC are available to NRCS for carrying out EQIP, each reference to NRCS in this part also refers to the CCC's funds, facilities, and authorities where applicable.

(b) Locally-led conservation. (1) NRCS supports locally-led conservation by soliciting input from the State Technical Committee and the Tribal Conservation Advisory Council at the State level, and local working groups at the county, parish, or Tribal level to advise NRCS on issues relating to EQIP implementation.

(2) Recommendations from the State Technical Committee and the Tribal Conservation Advisory Council may include but are not limited to:

(i) Recommendations for program priorities and criteria;

(ii) Identification of priority resource concerns;

(iii) Recommendations about which conservation practices will be effective to treat identified priority resource concerns; and

(iv) Recommendations of program payment rates for payment schedules.

(c) Delegations. No delegation in the administration of this part to lower organizational levels will preclude the Chief from making any determinations under this part, redelegating to other organizational levels, or from reversing or modifying any determination made under this part.

(d) Waiver. The Chief may modify or waive a nonstatutory, discretionary provision of this part if the Chief determines the application of that provision to a particular limited situation to be inappropriate and inconsistent with the purposes of the program;

(e) Scope of agreement authority. NRCS may enter into agreements with other Federal or State agencies, Indian Tribes, conservation districts, units of local government, public or private organizations, acequias, and individuals to assist NRCS with implementation of the program in this part.

§ 1466.3 - Definitions.

The definitions in this section apply to this part and all documents issued in accordance with this part, unless specified elsewhere in this part:

Agricultural operation means a parcel or parcels of land whether contiguous or noncontiguous, which is under the effective control of the producer at the time the producer applies for a contract, and which is operated by the producer with equipment, labor, management, and production, or cultivation practices that are substantially separate from other operations.

Animal feeding operation (AFO) means a lot or facility (other than an aquatic animal production facility) where the conditions in this definition are met:

(1) Animals have been, are, or will be stabled or confined and fed or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period; and

(2) Crops, vegetation, forage growth, or post-harvest residues are not sustained in the normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility.

Animal waste storage or treatment facility means a structural conservation practice, implemented on an AFO consistent with the requirements of a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) and Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG), which is used for storing, treating, or handling animal waste or by-products, such as animal carcasses.

Applicant means a producer who has requested in writing to participate in EQIP.

At-risk species means any plant or animal species listed as threatened or endangered; proposed or candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act; a species listed as threatened or endangered under State law or Tribal law on Tribal land; State or Tribal land species of conservation concern; or other plant or animal species or community, as determined by the State Conservationist, with advice from the State Technical Committee or Tribal Conservation Advisory Council, that has undergone, or is likely to undergo, population decline and may become imperiled without direct intervention.

Beginning farmer or rancher means a person, Indian Tribe, Tribal corporation, or legal entity who:

(1) Has not operated a farm or ranch, or NIPF, or who has operated a farm, ranch, or NIPF for not more than 10 consecutive years. This requirement applies to all members of an entity who will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.

(2) In the case of a contract with an individual, individually, or with the immediate family, material and substantial participation requires that the individual provide substantial day-to-day labor and management of the farm or ranch, consistent with the practices in the county or State where the farm is located.

(3) In the case of a contract with an entity or joint operation, all members must materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch. Material and substantial participation requires that each of the members provide some amount of the management, or labor and management necessary for day-to-day activities, such that if each of the members did not provide these inputs, operation of the farm or ranch would be seriously impaired.

Chief means the Chief of NRCS, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), or designee.

Comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) means a conservation plan that is specifically for an AFO. A CNMP identifies conservation practices and management activities that, when implemented as part of a conservation system, will manage sufficient quantities of manure, waste water, or organic by-products associated with a waste management facility. A CNMP incorporates practices to use animal manure and organic by-products as a beneficial resource while protecting all applicable natural resources including water and air quality associated with an AFO. A CNMP is developed to assist an AFO owner or operator in meeting all applicable local, Tribal, State, and Federal water quality goals or regulations. For nutrient-impaired stream segments or water bodies, additional management activities or conservation practices may be required by local, Tribal, State, or Federal water quality goals or regulations.

Conservation benefit means the improved condition of a natural resource concern resulting from the implementation of a conservation practice.

Conservation district means any district or unit of State, Tribal, or local government formed under State, Tribal, or territorial law for the express purpose of developing and carrying out a local soil and water conservation program. Such district or unit of government may be referred to as a “conservation district,” “soil conservation district,” “soil and water conservation district,” “resource conservation district,” “land conservation committee,” “natural resource district,” or similar name.

Conservation practice means one or more conservation improvements and activities, including structural practices, land management practices, vegetative practices, forest management practices, and other improvements that achieve the program purposes, including such items as CNMPs, agricultural energy management plans, dryland transition plans, forest management plans, soil testing, soil remediation, integrated pest management, and other plans or activities determined acceptable by the Chief. Approved conservation practices are listed in the NRCS FOTG.

Contract means a legal document that specifies the rights and obligations of any participant accepted into the program. An EQIP contract is a binding agreement for the transfer of assistance from USDA to the participant to share in the costs of implementing conservation practices.

Cost-effectiveness means the least costly option for achieving a given set of conservation objectives to address a resource concern.

Eligible land means land on which agricultural commodities, livestock, or forest-related products are produced, and specifically includes:

(1) Cropland;

(2) Grassland;

(3) Rangeland;

(4) Pasture land;

(5) Nonindustrial private forest land; and

(6) Other agricultural land (including cropped woodland, marshes, environmentally sensitive areas as identified by NRCS, and agricultural land used for the production of livestock) on which identified or expected resource concerns related to agricultural production that may be addressed by a contract under EQIP as determined by the Chief.

Enrolled land means the land area identified and included in the program contract at the time when funds have been obligated.

EQIP plan of operations means the document that identifies the location, timing, and extent of conservation practices that the participant agrees to implement on eligible land enrolled in the program in order to address the priority resource concerns, optimize environmental benefits, and address program purposes as defined in § 1466.1. The EQIP plan of operations is part of the EQIP contract.

Estimated income foregone means an estimate of the net income loss associated with the adoption of a conservation practice. Along with other estimated incurred costs, income foregone is one of the costs associated with practice implementation as recorded in a payment schedule.

Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG) means the official local NRCS source of resource information and interpretations of guidelines, criteria, and requirements for planning and implementation of conservation practices. It contains detailed information on the quality standards to achieve conservation of soil, water, air, plant, energy, and animal resources applicable to the local area for which it is prepared. (See https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/technical/fotg/ to access your State FOTG.)

Forest management plan means a site-specific plan that is prepared according to NRCS criteria by a professional resource manager, in consultation with the participant, and is approved by NRCS. Forest management plans may include a forest stewardship plan, as specified in section 5 of the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C. 2103a); another plan approved by the State forester or Indian Tribe; or another plan determined appropriate by NRCS. The plan is intended to comply with Federal, State, Tribal, and local laws, regulations, and permit requirements.

Habitat development means the application of conservation practices to establish, improve, protect, enhance, or restore the conditions of the land for the specific purpose of improving conditions for fish and wildlife.

High priority area means a watershed (or other appropriate region or area within a State) wherein the Chief, in consultation with the State Technical Committee, has identified one or more priority resource concerns.

Historically underserved producer means a person, joint operation, legal entity, or Indian Tribe who is a beginning farmer or rancher, socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher, limited resource farmer or rancher, or veteran farmer or rancher.

Incentive practice means a practice or set of practices approved by the Chief that, when implemented and maintained on eligible land, address one or more priority resource concerns under a contract entered into under subpart D of this part.

Indian land means:

(1) Land held in trust by the United States for individual Indians or Indian Tribes;

(2) Land, the title to which is held by individual Indians or Indian Tribes subject to Federal restrictions against alienation or encumbrance;

(3) Land which is subject to rights of use, occupancy or benefit of certain Indian Tribes; or

(4) Land held in fee title by an Indian, Indian family, or Indian Tribe.

Indian Tribe means any Indian Tribe, band, nation, pueblo, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.

Integrated pest management means a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks.

Joint operation means, as defined in 7 CFR part 1400, a general partnership, joint venture, or other similar business organization in which the members are jointly and severally liable for the obligations of the organization.

Legal entity means, as defined in 7 CFR part 1400, an entity created under Federal or State law that:

(1) Owns land or an agricultural commodity, product, or livestock; or

(2) Produces an agricultural commodity, product, or livestock.

Lifespan means the period of time during which a conservation practice or activity should be maintained and used for the intended purpose.

Limited resource farmer or rancher means either:

(1) Individual producer:

(i) A person with direct or indirect gross farm sales not more than the current indexed value in each of the previous 2 fiscal years (adjusted for inflation using Prices Paid by Farmer Index as compiled by National Agricultural Statistical Service), and

(ii) Has a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, or less than 50 percent of county median household income in each of the previous 2 years (to be determined annually using Commerce Department Data); or

(2) A legal entity or joint operation if all individual members independently qualify under paragraph (1) of this definition.

Liquidated damages means a sum of money stipulated in the EQIP contract that the participant agrees to pay NRCS if the participant fails to adequately complete the terms of the contract. The sum represents an estimate of the technical assistance expenses incurred to service the contract and reflects the difficulties of proof of loss and the inconvenience or nonfeasibility of otherwise obtaining an adequate remedy.

Livestock means all domesticated animals produced on farms or ranches, as determined by the Chief.

Livestock production means farm or ranch operations involving the production, growing, raising, or reproduction of domesticated livestock or livestock products.

Local working group means the advisory body as defined in 7 CFR part 610.

National Organic Program means the national program established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.), administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service, which regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced.

National priorities mean resource issues identified by the Chief, with advice from other federal agencies, Indian Tribes, and State Conservationists, which is used to determine the distribution of EQIP funds and guide local EQIP implementation.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is an agency of USDA, which has responsibility for administering EQIP using the funds, facilities, and authorities of the CCC.

Nonindustrial private forest land (NIPF) means rural land, as determined by NRCS, that has existing tree cover or is suitable for growing trees; and is owned by any nonindustrial private individual, group, association, corporation, Indian Tribe, or other private legal entity that has definitive decision-making authority over the land.

Operation and maintenance (O&M) means work performed by the participant to keep the applied conservation practice functioning for the intended purpose during the conservation practice lifespan. Operation includes the administration, management, and performance of nonmaintenance actions needed to keep the completed practice functioning as intended. Maintenance includes work to prevent deterioration of the practice, repairing damage, or replacement of the practice to its original condition if one or more components fail.

O&M agreement means the document that, in conjunction with the EQIP plan of operations, specifies the O&M responsibilities of the participant for conservation practices installed with EQIP assistance.

Organic system plan (OSP) means a management plan for organic production or for an organic handling operation that has been agreed to by the producer or handler and the certifying agent. The OSP includes all written plans that govern all aspects of agricultural production or handling as required under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.).

Participant means an applicant that has entered into an EQIP contract who incurs the cost of practice implementation, will receive or has received payment, or is responsible for implementing the terms and conditions of an EQIP contract.

Payment means financial assistance provided to the participant based on the estimated costs incurred in performing or implementing conservation practices, including costs for: Planning, design, materials, equipment, installation, labor, management, maintenance, or training, as well as the estimated income foregone by the participant for designated conservation practices.

Person means, as defined in 7 CFR part 1400, an individual, natural person, and does not include a legal entity.

Priority resource concern means a resource concern, as determined by the Chief, with input from the State Technical Committee, that—

(1) Is identified at the national, State, or local level as a priority for a particular area of a State; and

(2) Represents a significant concern in a State or region.

Producer means a person, legal entity, Indian Tribe, or joint operation who NRCS determines is engaged in agricultural production or forestry management on the agricultural operation.

Resource concern means a specific natural resource issue or problem that represents a significant concern in a State or region and is likely to be addressed through the implementation of conservation practices by producers according to NRCS technical standards.

Semi-public means entities that are private or public companies that serve a public purpose, i.e. Public utility companies. They often have condemnation authority but are not considered part of the State or State government.

Socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher means a producer who is a member of a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices without regard to its members' individual qualities. For an entity, at least 50-percent ownership in the business entity must be held by socially disadvantaged individuals.

Soil remediation means scientifically based practices, as determined by NRCS, that—

(1) Ensure the safety of producers from contaminants in soil;

(2) Limit contaminants in soils from entering agricultural products for human or animal consumption; and

(3) Regenerate and sustain the soil.

Soil testing means the evaluation of soil health, including testing for the—

(1) Optimal level of constituents in the soil, such as organic matter, nutrients, and the potential presence of soil contaminants (including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons, or other contaminants), as determined by NRCS; and

(2) Biological and physical characteristics indicative of proper soil functioning.

State conservationist means the NRCS employee authorized to implement EQIP and direct and supervise NRCS activities in a State and the Caribbean and Pacific Island Areas.

State Technical Committee means a committee established by NRCS in a State pursuant to 7 CFR part 610, subpart C.

Structural practice means a conservation practice, including a vegetative practice, that involves establishing, constructing, or installing a site-specific measure to conserve and protect a resource from degradation, or improve soil, water, air, or related natural resources. Examples include, but are not limited to, animal waste management facilities, terraces, grassed waterways, tailwater pits, livestock water developments, contour grass strips, filter strips, critical area plantings, tree plantings, establishment or improvement of wildlife habitat, and capping of abandoned wells.

Technical assistance means technical expertise, information, training, education, and tools necessary for a producer to be able to successfully implement, operate, and maintain conservation practices to ensure the conservation of natural resources on land active in agricultural, forestry, or related uses. These technical services include:

(1) Technical services provided directly to farmers, ranchers, Indian Tribes, and other eligible entities, such as conservation planning, technical consultation, and assistance with design and implementation of conservation practices; and

(2) Technical infrastructure, including activities, processes, tools, and agency functions needed to support delivery of technical services, such as technical standards, resource inventories, training, education, data, technology, monitoring, and effects analyses.

Technical service provider (TSP) means an individual, private-sector entity, Indian Tribe, or public agency either:

(1) Certified by NRCS pursuant to 7 CFR part 652 and placed on the approved list to provide technical services to participants; or

(2) Selected by the Department to assist in the implementation of conservation programs covered by this part through a procurement contract, contributions agreement, or cooperative agreement with the Department.

Tribal Conservation Advisory Council means, in lieu of or in addition to forming a Tribal conservation district, an Indian Tribe may elect to designate an advisory council to provide input on NRCS programs and the conservation needs of the Tribe and Tribal producers. The advisory council may be an existing Tribal committee or department and may also constitute an association of member Tribes organized to provide direct consultation to NRCS at the State, regional, and national levels to provide input on NRCS rules, policies, and programs and their impacts on Tribes.

Veteran farmer or rancher means a producer who meets the definition in section 2501(a) of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, as amended (7 U.S.C. 2279(a)).

Water management entity means a State, irrigation district, groundwater management district, acequia, land grant-merced, or similar entity that has jurisdiction or responsibilities related to water delivery or management to eligible lands.

Wildlife means nondomesticated birds, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and mammals.

Wildlife habitat means the aquatic and terrestrial environments required for fish and wildlife to complete their life cycles, providing air, food, cover, water, and spatial requirements.

[84 FR 69280, Dec. 17, 2019, as amended at 85 FR 67647, Oct. 26, 2020]

§ 1466.4 - National priorities.

(a) The national priorities in paragraphs (a)(1) through (8) of this section, consistent with statutory resources concerns, include soil quality, water quality and quantity, plants, energy, wildlife habitat, air quality, increased weather volatility, and related natural resource concerns, that may be used in EQIP implementation are:

(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;

(2) The reduction of ground and surface water contamination;

(3) The reduction of contamination from agricultural sources, such as animal feeding operations;

(4) Conservation of ground and surface water resources, including improvement of irrigation efficiency and increased resilience against drought and weather volatility;

(5) 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 the National Ambient Air Quality Standards;

(6) Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels and improvement of soil health on eligible land;

(7) Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat; and

(8) 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.

(b) In consultation with other Federal agencies and Indian Tribes, NRCS may undertake periodic reviews of the national priorities and the effects of program delivery at the State and local levels to adapt the program to address emerging resource issues. NRCS may—

(1) Use the national priorities to guide the allocation of EQIP funds to the NRCS State offices;

(2) Use the national priorities in conjunction with States, Indian Tribes, and local priorities to assist with prioritization and selection of EQIP applications; and

(3) Periodically review and update the national priorities utilizing input from the public, Indian Tribes, other Federal and State agencies, and affected stakeholders to ensure that the program continues to address priority resource concerns.

[84 FR 69280, Dec. 17, 2019, as amended at 85 FR 67647, Oct. 26, 2020]

§ 1466.5 - Outreach activities.

(a) NRCS conducts outreach activities at the national, State, Tribal, and local levels to ensure that producers whose land has environmental problems or priority resource concerns are aware and informed that they may be eligible to apply for program assistance.

(b) NRCS will make special outreach to eligible producers with historically low participation rates, including but not restricted to, limited resource, socially disadvantaged, small-scale, beginning farmers or ranchers, veteran farmers or ranchers, Indian Tribes, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders.

(c) NRCS provides outreach to ensure producer participation is not limited based on the size or type of operation or production system, including small-scale, specialty crop, and organic production.

(d) NRCS will notify historically underserved producers, at the time of enrollment in the program, of the option to receive advance payments under § 1466.24 of this part and document the election of each of these producers.

§ 1466.6 - Program requirements.

(a) General. Program participation is voluntary. An applicant must develop an EQIP plan of operations for the eligible land to be treated which serves as the basis for the EQIP contract. Under EQIP, NRCS provides participants with technical assistance and payments to plan and apply needed conservation practices.

(b) Applicant eligibility. To be eligible to participate in EQIP, an applicant must—

(1) Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions at 7 CFR part 12;

(2) Be a producer as determined by NRCS;

(3) Have control of the land for the term of the proposed contract unless an exception is made by the Chief in the case of land administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Indian lands, or other instances in which the Chief determines sufficient assurance of control;

(i) The Chief may determine that land administered by BIA, Indian land, or other such circumstances provides sufficient assurance of control, and

(ii) If the applicant is a tenant of the land involved in agricultural production or forestry management, the Chief may require the applicant to obtain the written concurrence of the landowner to apply a conservation practice;

(4) Agree to implement the EQIP plan of operations according to the provisions and conditions established in the EQIP contract, including the EQIP contract appendix;

(5) Submit an EQIP plan of operations or plan developed for the purposes of acquiring an air or water quality permit, provided these plans contain elements equivalent to those elements required by an EQIP plan of operations and are acceptable to NRCS as being consistent with the purposes of the program;

(6) Supply information, as required by NRCS, to determine eligibility for the program, including but not limited to, information to verify the applicant's status as a historically underserved producer, and payment eligibility as established by 7 CFR part 1400; and

(7) Provide a list of all members of the legal entity and embedded entities along with members' tax identification numbers and percentage interest in the entity.

(c) Consideration for enrollment of eligible land. Eligible land, as defined in § 1466.3, may be considered for enrollment in EQIP only if NRCS determines that the land is—

(1) Privately owned land;

(2) Publicly owned land where—

(i) The land is a working component of the participant's agricultural or forestry operation,

(ii) The participant has control of the land for the term of the contract, and

(iii) The conservation practices to be implemented on the public land are necessary and will contribute to an improvement in the identified resource concern; or

(3) Indian land.

(d) Eligibility of a water management entity. (1) Notwithstanding paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, NRCS may enter into an EQIP contract with a water management entity provided the criteria in paragraphs (d)(1)(i), (ii), and (iii) of this section can be met:

(i) The entity is a public or semipublic agency or organization,

(ii) Its purpose is to assist private agricultural producers manage water distribution or conservation systems, and

(iii) The water conservation or irrigation practices support a water conservation project under § 1466.20(c) that will effectively conserve water, provide fish and wildlife habitat, or provide for drought-related environmental mitigation, as determined by the Chief.

(2) Water conservation or irrigation practices that are the subject of a contract entered into under paragraph (d)(1) of this section shall be implemented on—

(i) Eligible land of a producer; or

(ii) Land that is—

(A) Under the control of the water management entity, and

(B) Adjacent to eligible land of a producer, provided the Chief determines the adjacent land is necessary to support the installation of a practice or system implemented on eligible land.

(3)(i) The Chief may waive the average adjusted gross income limitation set forth in 7 CFR part 1400 or the aggregate payment limitation set forth in § 1466.24 of this part for a contract under paragraph (d)(1) of this section if the Chief determines that the waiver is necessary to fulfill the objectives of the project.

(ii) In determining whether to grant a waiver under this paragraph, the Chief shall consider—

(A) The number of producers who will benefit from the project;

(B) The conservation benefit of the practices involved in the project;

(C) The amount of non-federal assets leveraged to facilitate the project;

(D) The extent to which the project involves progressive implementation of conservation practices; and

(E) Other criteria as determined by NRCS.

(iii) Notwithstanding any waiver of the aggregate payment limitation, a water management entity or individual member thereof shall not receive, in the aggregate, directly or indirectly, payments under this paragraph, in aggregate, in excess of $900,000 for all contracts entered into under this paragraph by the water management entity during the period of fiscal years 2019 through 2023.

[84 FR 69280, Dec. 17, 2019, as amended at 85 FR 67647, Oct. 26, 2020]

§ 1466.7 - EQIP plan of operations.

(a) All conservation practices in the EQIP plan of operations must be approved by NRCS and developed and carried out in accordance with the applicable NRCS planning and FOTG technical requirements.

(b) The participant is responsible for implementing the EQIP plan of operations according to the approved implementation schedule.

(c) The EQIP plan of operations must include—

(1) A description of the participant's specific conservation objectives to be achieved;

(2) To the extent practicable, the quantitative or qualitative goals for achieving the participant's conservation and natural resource objectives;

(3) A description of one or more conservation practices in the conservation management system, including conservation planning, design, or installation activities to be implemented to achieve the conservation objectives;

(4) A schedule for implementing the conservation practices, including timing, sequence, operation, and maintenance; and

(5) Information that enables evaluation of the effectiveness of the plan of operations in achieving the conservation objectives.

(d) If an EQIP plan of operations includes an animal waste storage or treatment facility to be implemented on an AFO, the participant must agree to:

(1) Develop a CNMP by the end of the contract period; and

(2) Implement any applicable conservation practices in the EQIP plan of operation consistent with an approved CNMP.

(e) An EQIP plan of operations on forest land must implement conservation practices consistent with an approved forest management plan.

(f) NRCS may provide a participant with assistance to implement an EQIP plan of operations which includes irrigation-related practices to address a water conservation resource concern only if the participant establishes through documented evidence, including irrigation history, that such assistance will facilitate a reduction in ground or surface water use on the agricultural operation, unless the producer is participating in a watershed-wide project, as approved by NRCS, which will effectively conserve water in accordance with § 1466.20 of this part.

[84 FR 69280, Dec. 17, 2019, as amended at 85 FR 67647, Oct. 26, 2020]

§ 1466.8 - Conservation practices.

(a) NRCS will determine the conservation practices for which participants may receive program payments and provide a list of eligible practices to the public.

(b) Payment will not be made to a participant for conservation practices that—

(1) Either the applicant or another producer has initiated or implemented prior to application for the program; or

(2) Has been initiated or implemented prior to contract approval, unless a waiver was granted by the Chief prior to the practice implementation.

(c) Unless waived for circumstances as determined by the Chief, a participant is eligible for payments for water conservation and irrigation-related conservation practices only on land that has been irrigated for 2 of the last 5 years prior to application for assistance.

(d) Upon the development of a new technology or management approach that provides a high potential for optimizing conservation benefits, NRCS may approve an interim conservation practice standard that incorporates the new technology or management approach and provide financial assistance for pilot work to evaluate and assess the performance, efficiency, and effectiveness of the new technology or management approach.

(e) NRCS will at least annually consult with State Technical Committees, Tribal Conservation Advisory Councils, local work groups, and other stakeholders to identify conservation practices with appropriate purposes and the criteria for their application to address priorities to establish wildlife habitat including—

(1) Upland wildlife habitat;

(2) Wetland wildlife habitat;

(3) Habitat for threatened and endangered species;

(4) Fish habitat;

(5) Habitat on pivot corners and other irregular areas of a field; and

(6) Other types of wildlife habitat, as determined by NRCS.

§ 1466.9 - Technical services provided by qualified personnel not affiliated with USDA.

(a) NRCS may use the services of qualified third-party TSPs in its delivery of EQIP technical assistance in accordance with 7 CFR part 652.

(b) Participants may obtain technical services from certified TSPs in accordance with 7 CFR part 652.

(c) NRCS retains approval authority of work done by non-NRCS personnel for the purpose of approving EQIP payments.