Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  SENATE HOUSE
Overview of changes: Maintains much of the prior EQIP program. Instructs the Secretary to conduct a large-scale soil health and carbon study. Encourages streamlining between EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Much of the increase in almost $8 billion in spending is due to EQIP picking up much of the repealed Conservation Stewardship Program. There is a 'new' stewardship program within EQIP that provides 5-10 year contracts for up to $50,000 per producer. However, this program is not as comprehensive as the CSP, and is more targeted to specific priority resource concerns rather than a 'whole farm approach.'
Change in Spending: Reduces spending by $1.5 billion. Increases spending by $7.7 billion.
PURPOSES & DEFINITIONS
  CURRENT LAW SENATE BILL HOUSE BILL
    Proposed Changes Proposed Changes
    S. 3042, secs. 2301, 2302, 2305 H.R. 2, sec. 2301
Purpose: Weather adaptation is not mentioned. The program was for beneficial and cost effective changes to production systems was meant for livestock, pest, or irrigation management. Adapting to and mitigating against increasing weather volatility is now a purpose of EQIP. EQIP is now meant to "address existing or new resource concerns associated with changes to production systems, including conservation practices related to organic production". Crops and drought resiliency measures are added to the list of topics EQIP is meant to manage. (Section 2301) No changes.
Definition: 'Conservation' planning survey was not defined before. 'Practice' and 'producer' were defined before but are expanded here. Eligible practices did not include precision conservation management planning or resource conserving crop rotations. Defines a conservation planning survey as: a plan that is developed by a State or unit of local government (including a conservation district), a federal agency, or a third-party provider, assesses rangeland or cropland function and describes conservation activities to enhance the economic and ecological management of the land, can be incorporated into a comprehensive planning document required by the Secretary for enrollment in a conservation program at the USDA, and provides recommendations for enrollment in the program or other conservation programs of the USDA.  Also amends the term 'producer' to include an acequia. Amends 'eligible land' to include only those that avoid crossing an environmentally sensitive areas. A 'practice' now includes soil tests for heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and other contaminants, biological and physical soil health, and scientifically based soil remediation practices to be carried out by the producer, as determined by the Secretary (Section 2302) Precision conservation management planning and cover crops and resource conserving crop rotations are eligible for EQIP. 'Priority resource concern' now means a natural resource concern as determined by the Secretary that is identified at the national, state, or local level as a priority for a particular area of a state and represents a significant concern for the state or region. 'Stewardship practice' now means a practice or set of practices approved by the Secretary that, when implemented and maintained on eligible land, address 1 or more priority resource concerns.
Duties of the Secretary: N/A The Secretary is to streamline and coordinate procedures between EQIP and CSP to enhance soil health (Section 2303). No changes.
ESTABLISHMENT & ADMINISTRATION
  CURRENT LAW SENATE BILL HOUSE BILL
    Proposed Changes Proposed Changes
    S. 3042, secs. 2303, 2304 H.R. 2, sec. 2302
When it expires: 2019 2023 2023
Funding: At least 60% of funds made available for payments under the program shall be targeted at practices benefitting wildlife habitat. At least 50% of funds made available for payments under the program shall be targeted at practices benefitting wildlife habitat. Can also be used for production (including grazing). Within a year of enactment, the Secretary shall review the process for determining funding allocations by considering relevant data on local natural resource concerns, recommendations of state technically committees,  local data, and what can be achieved in terms of priority natural resource objectives. At least 5% of funds made available for payments shall be targeted at practices benefitting wildlife habitat.
Contracts: All contracts cannot last more than 10 years.  A producer of a limited resource, socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher, veteran famer or rancher, or beginning farmer or rancher cannot spend more than 50% of payments for purchasing materials or contracting. They must spend their funding within 90 days. Wildlife benefit contracts are maxed at 10 years. A producer of a limited resource, socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher, veteran famer or rancher, or beginning farmer or rancher must spend more than 50% of payments for purchasing materials or contracting. They must spend their funding within 180 days. They can now opt out of payments. No changes.
Cost-Share Rates: No prior relevant requirements Within a year of the enactment of the Farm Bill, the Secretary needs to review cost share rates of payments made to producers for practices on eligible land under this section and evaluate whether those rates are the least costly rates of payment that encourage participation in the program and encourage implementation of the most effective practices to address local natural resource concerns on eligible land. No changes.
Water conservation: Priority is given to applications that are consistent with state law, there is a reduction in the water use of the operation or the producer, or the producer agrees not to use any associated water savings to bring new land, other than incidental land needed for efficient operations, under irrigated production unless the producer is participating in a shed-wide project that will effectively conserve water. Priority is also given to water conservation or irrigation practices that address regional drought control efforts. The Secretary may provide water conservation and system efficiency payments for a water conservation scheduling technology or water conservation scheduling management, irrigation-related structural practices, or transition to water-conserving crops or water-conserving crop rotations. Irrigation districts, association, and acequia re now eligible to implement water conservation or irrigation practices pursuant to a watershed-wide project that will conserve water. These contracts shall be implemented on the eligible land of a producer or land that is under control of the above-mentioned jurisdiction. Adjusted gross income and payment limitations may be waived for these projects.
Stewardship Programs: Program does not exist within EQIP. N/A, CSP is still in effect. The Secretary shall enter into contracts with producers that provide incentives in the form of 5-10 year contracts. to attain increased conservation stewardship on eligible land that addresses locally established priority resource concerns. Producers may not receive more than $50,000 per year. No more than half of all EQIP funds may be used for stewardship programs.
Evaluation of Applications: N/A Priority is given to consideration of the most effective practices to address natural resource concerns on eligible land. No changes.
GRANTS & PAYMENTS
  CURRENT LAW SENATE BILL HOUSE BILL
    Proposed Changes Proposed Changes
    S. 3042, secs. 2306, 2307 H.R. 2, secs. 2303, 2304
When payment limitation and air quality grants expire: 2018 2023 2023
Grants: Grants are used to carry out projects that (A) involve producers who are eligible for payments or
technical assistance under the program;(B) leverage Federal funds made available to carry out
the program under this chapter with matching funds provided by State and local governments and private organizations to promote environmental enhancement and protection in conjunction with agricultural production; (C) ensure efficient and effective transfer of innovative
technologies and approaches demonstrated through
projects that receive funding under this section, such as
market systems for pollution reduction and practices for
the storage of carbon in soil;(D) provide environmental and resource conservation benefits through increased participation by producers of specialty crops; (E) facilitate on-farm conservation research and demonstration
activities; and (F) facilitate pilot testing. $25 million is set aside for air quality concerns. Conservation innovation grants have no maximum.
In addition to current uses, grants can now be used to partner with farmers to develop innovate conservation practices for urban, indoor, or other emerging agricultural practices to increase i) green space, ii) pollinator habitat, iii) stormwater management, iv) carbon sequestration, and v) access to agricultural production sites through land tenure agreements and other contracts In addition to current uses, grants can now be used to test new or innovative conservation approaches directly with producers or through eligible entities. These conservation approaches, which shall not total more than $25 million per year, are to be made with producers on whose land an on-farm conservation innovation trial is being carried out to provide payments to assist with adopting or evaluating new conservation approaches. Agreements shall be no less than 3 years and can be more than 3 to support adoptive management over multiple crop years and adequate data collection and analysis to report the natural resource and agricultural production benefits of new approaches.$37.5 million is set aside each fiscal year through 2023 for air quality concerns. Conservation innovation grants are maxed at $25 million total each fiscal year through 2023.
Definitions: N/A No changes. Eligible entity: third-party private entity related to agriculture. New or innovative: i) precision agriculture technologies ii) enhanced nutrient management plans and fertilization systems iii) soil health management systems iv) water management systems, v) resource-conserving crop rotations, vi) cover crops, vii) irrigation systems
Reporting: No reporting requirements. No changes. The Secretary must make results of these innovation trials available on a public database while protecting the individual producer's information. The Secretary is to provide compilation and analysis of the trials to encourage the broader adoption of innovative technologies.
SOIL HEALTH DEMONSTRATION PILOT PROJECT
  CURRENT LAW SENATE BILL HOUSE BILL
    Proposed Changes Proposed Changes
    S. 3042, sec. 2308 H.R. 2, secs. 2303, 2304
Description: N/A A new Soil Health Demonstration Pilot Project will be undertaken by the Secretary. Incentives will be provided to encourage producers to adopt practices to improve soil health, including by increasing carbon levels in soil. No changes
Requirements: N/A Geographic regions based on soil type and cropping history will be considered when conducting the study. Payments will be made to improve soil health and increase carbon levels in the soil. The Secretary shall conduct a study and report results to Congress no later than Sep. 30, 2022 regarding changes in soil health as a result of the practices used in the pilot project. No changes