For farmers and ranchers seeking to offset costs of a new farm or agricultural metal building, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a viable resource. The program from the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) provides farmers with financial cost-share assistance and technical assistance in exchange for building with environmentally sound practices.
The purpose of this program is to encourage conservation of natural resources in a way that benefits the farmer, whether you are preventing runoff into local watersheds or making the switch to a contained livestock facility. Here we will highlight the environmental practices applicable to metal building construction and walk you through the application process for EQIP.
Environmental practices for a metal building
EQIP assists farmers and ranchers with a variety of conservation practices, such as crop rotation, high tunnel systems and integrated pest management. But the practices most applicable to farm or agricultural metal buildings — livestock housing and waste storage facilities, for instance — are the structural practices. When you meet with an NRCS representative to discuss the resource concern on your farm, they will recommend anywhere from 3 to 15 of these practices, as they are often used together as a system to reach a conservation goal.
The conservation practice that applies directly to metal building construction is the roof runoff structure practice. This aids with the conservation goal of runoff prevention, and structure will collect, control and convey rain runoff from the roof of your metal building.
This practice can be used to protect surface water quality, protect structures’ foundation from water damage and soil erosion and capture water for other uses. The practice specifies material, capacity and sizing for the gutter, downspout and outlet of the structure, as well as maintenance specifications that farmers will need to uphold with the roof runoff structure. Click here to see the specifics of the practice from the NRCS.
As mentioned above, conservation practices are rarely used in isolation. The following practices are common supplements to the roof runoff structure practice for reaching the larger conservation goal of runoff prevention. Click here to see the NRCS’s specifications for each practice.
- Grassed waterway
- Critical area planting
- Waste separation, transfer and storage
- Filter strips
- Underground outlets
- Vegetated treatment areas
These practices are what make up your Conservation Activity Plan (CAP), which is the plan of action you will fill out with an NRCS employee before you submit the EQIP application.
See these practices in action with a cattle farmer from Iowa, who used EQIP resources to consolidate his operation into a 40,000-square-foot contained facility and now uses those environmentally sound practices outlined in his CAP to prevent runoff.
The basics of EQIP funding
To be eligible for EQIP, you must currently own or control the land on which you are proposing the metal building. Your earnings in agricultural products need to exceed $1,000 in the year before the EQIP contract begins, and you cannot be receiving payments from other U.S. Department of Agriculture programs for the practices you plan on implementing.
EQIP will share up to 75% of the costs of your conservation practices, such as planning, materials, installation and labor. The NRCS annually re-evaluates the cost for materials and labors in each state and payment schedules will vary from state to state. The program is a reimbursement system, so farmers need to be able to front the costs.
Beginning Farmers, Limited Resource Farmers, and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers are eligible for higher payments and 5% of all EQIP funds are set aside for those groups. Click here to see if you are eligible for one of those groups.
The EQIP application process
Once you’ve decided to apply for EQIP funding for your metal building and have determined you are eligible, you should begin the application process. Throughout the process, you will be in contact with a representative from the local NRCS office (click here to find your local office). The representative will assist you in finalizing the specific conservation practices in your CAP.
The EQIP application process is continuous — meaning you can submit your application at any time of year — but the state offices of the NRCS set deadlines for each year of funding. For farmers, this means if you submit your application after the state-appointed deadline it will still be considered, but not until the following financial year. It is in the best interest of farmers seeking funding for their metal building to reach out to their state NRCS office for the deadline so the process can begin sooner than later.
For a step-by-step guide on the application process, click here.
How EQIP applications are ranked
State NRCS employees rank applications on a point system, awarding points for fulfilling state and national conservation priorities — the higher the priority of the conservation activity, the more points awarded to the application.
National EQIP initiatives — water quality, on-farm energy, organic, and high tunnel systems — are priorities in every state. State priorities vary, from California’s emphasis on managing water resources to Tennessee’s initiative on shortleaf pine management to Nebraska’s focus on waste management with AFOs. Click here to see Nebraska’s full state and national point system for an example of what the evaluators will be looking at when they review your EQIP application.
The National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) and regional Water-Based Landscape Initiatives are most applicable to an EQIP-funded metal building, as runoff control is used to improve water quality. To qualify for the NWQI, verify what watershed your farm is located in, then see if your watershed is on the NWQI approved list of watersheds.
Regional Water-Based Landscape Initiatives are available for reference on the NRCS’s interactive EQIP initiative map, and farmers can see if they are located with one of these initiative borders. For instance, a farmer located in Tennessee would fall under the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative.
These initiatives are just a few of many ranking criteria, and your local NRCS office can offer more insight on the conservation initiatives important to your farm’s region.
Ready to begin the process of purchasing a metal building for your farm or ranch? Searcy Building Systems can answer questions on how to make your metal building work for your operation and will work to ensure it fits into your EQIP-funded plans.