NB_300_19_20 - NB 300-19-20 LTP – Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Implementation of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018
NB 300-19-20 LTP – Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Implementation of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018
National Bulletin: 300-19-20 Date: April 2, 2019
Subject: LTP – Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Implementation of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018


 
 
Purpose.  To provide State conservationists (STCs) with the guidance to administer EQIP during the remainder of FY 2019 in compliance with the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Act).     
 
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2019
 
Background.  The 2018 Act, signed into law by the President on December 20, 2018, authorizes NRCS to provide technical and financial assistance through EQIP as soon as possible after enactment.
 
Explanation.  The 2018 Act provides the agency with authority to administer EQIP using the existing published regulation, with exceptions for changes to specific authorities as outlined in this bulletin. This bulletin also provides guidance for administration of conservation planning and acceptance of new applications. Further guidance and additional actions will be provided separate from this bulletin.

EQIP changes for rollout in FY 2019:

• Organic payment limitation changes:
• Payments under the Organic Initiative to a person or legal entity, directly or indirectly, may not exceed $140,000 for Organic Initiative contracts entered into during the period of fiscal years 2019 through 2023
• Removes the $20,000 annual payment limit
• These changes have been incorporated in the revised NRCS-CPA-1202 Appendix
• New veteran farmer or rancher (VFR) definition:
• “has not operated a farm or ranch: or … has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years” or who first obtained status as a veteran “during the most recent 10-year period”
• Change has been incorporated in the revised NRCS-CPA-1200
• Guidance sheet attached (Attachment A)
• Required notification of a participant’s eligibility for advance payment and agency documentation of the participant’s decision:
• For FY 2019, this requirement has been incorporated in new preapproval letter, which is available in ProTracts
• For FY 2019, planners must document the decision in the conservation 6-notes. A participant may change his or her decision.
• Revised NRCS-CPA-1200 for EQIP and RCPP-EQIP dated March 2019 (attachment B & C)
• Revised NRCS-CPA-1202 appendix for EQIP and RCPP-EQIP dated March 2019 (attachment B & C)
• Revised Preapproval Letter (440-CPM-512-J-512.94) (attachment D)
• Revised Program Eligibility Certification Letter (440-CPM-512-J-512.91) (attachment E)
• New CCC-941 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) form
• The percentage of available funds obligated benefiting wildlife habitat has increased to 10 percent
• The percentage of available funds obligated targeting livestock has been decreased to 50 percent

The following actions were completed with the released ProTracts Build on February 19, 2019:

• Migration of ranking tools and subaccounts from EQIP 2014 to EQIP 2018
• Migration of payment schedules from EQIP 2014 to EQIP 2018
• Changed the status of all approved applications back to preapproved
• Migration all pending, eligible, and preapproved applications from EQIP 2014 to EQIP 2018 (including participant information, ranking, and uploaded toolkit contract)

Signup Announcements and Batching

STCs may continue to advertise EQIP program opportunities following the guidance provided in National Instruction 440-306, “Guidance for Implementing Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) and Environmental Quality Incentives Programs” and NI-440-307 “Instructions for Implementing National Program and Landscape Conservation Initiatives.” Edge-of-field water quality monitoring (EOF) and revisions to MRBI and NWQI guidance have been added to NI-440-307. Separate guidance for highly erodible land (HEL) pilot and Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) 132 pilot will be issued later.

Availability of EQIP Funds and Subaccounts (Funding Pools)

The FY 2019 allocation of EQIP financial assistance (FA) funds to States is complete. For individual State distribution of general and initiative FA, refer to the memo sent to STCs on February 1, 2019, from Jimmy Bramblett, deputy chief for programs.

FY 2019 FA funds have been reallocated from the EQIP 2014 to EQIP 2018. States can distribute their FA funds down to the individual subaccounts.

Applications

Applications received after the release of the new NRCS-CPA-1200 (dated March 2019)
• Applications must be completed on the new NRCS-CPA-1200 (March 2019) and is available in ProTracts under “Forms.”
• Use the NRCS-CPA-1200 that is attached to this bulletin. Do not use the NRCS-CPA-1200 in ProTracts. Notification will be sent when the corrected version is available in ProTracts.

Applications received before the release of the new NRCS-CPA-1200 (dated March 2019)
• Are not required to sign a new NRCS-CPA-1200 application.
• Any existing application where the applicant self-certified as a veteran farmer or rancher must recertify based on the new definition. You may use the updated “Program Eligibility Certification Request Letter” in section 512.91 to notify all applicants of the revised VFR definition.

Eligibility

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is currently accepting and processing “Average Adjusted Gross Income Certification and Consent to Disclosure of Tax Information (AGI)” forms (CCC-941). ProTracts is able to read FY 2019 AGI eligibility.

The following items must be verified and documented in the casefile by NRCS prior to obligating any new contracts:

• The participant has submitted a completed CCC-941, “Average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) Certification and Consent to Disclosure of Tax Information,” and self-certified that he or she meets the AGI provisions.
• States must verify in the Subsidiary Eligibility System that the participant’s AGI status has not been set to any of the ineligible categories.

States must also verify in the Subsidiary Eligibility System that the participant AGI status has not been set to any of the ineligible categories prior to modifying or issuing payments for all existing contracts. If a participant is later determined to not meet the AGI requirements the contract must be terminated, and all improper payments made must be collected.

AGI forms dated January 24, 2019, are available on eForms. FSA will accept either version of the AGI form signed as of October 1, 2018, meaning updating signatures on the newest form is not required.

Obligations

• The preobligation checklist must be completed for each application before obligation occurs. An updated preobligation checklist is attached (attachment F).
• If a previous version of the preobligation checklist has been used for an application, States are not required to redo the review utilizing the new preobligation checklist.
• There will be a national quality assurance review of FY 2019 contracts. Additional information will be forthcoming under a separate national bulletin

Fund Assessment

A fund assessment will be conducted for FY 2019. Further information and guidance will be issued in a national bulletin.

Support and Administration of EQIP Obligated Prior to the 2018 Act

The enactment of the Farm Bill does not impact or change authority to provide technical and financial assistance to support EQIP contracts obligated prior to December 20, 2018, using provisions of previous Farm Bill legislation and program rules. During the transition period to implement the 2018 Act, STCs are encouraged to focus support and workload to help participants implement previously obligated program contracts. Refer to the memo sent to STCs on January 19, 2019, from Jimmy Bramblett.

RCPP-EQIP Contracts Associated With Executed RCPP Partnership Agreements Under the 2014 Farm Bill

• RCPP-EQIP contracts executed prior to December 20, 2018, must follow existing RCPP-EQIP program contract terms and conditions and associated EQIP policy.
• RCPP-EQIP contracts to be executed after the date of enactment of the 2018 Act will be administered in accordance with FY 2018 Act EQIP requirements and approved RCPP flexibilities (e.g., AGI waivers, approved adjustments of terms).
• New applications can be entered in ProTracts

Additional guidance and training will be provided. We ask for your patience during this transition period to allow for timely and efficient implementation. If you have questions, please submit your questions through your State office to the FAPD SharePoint site under Program Questions.
 
Contact.  If you have questions regarding this bulletin, submit them to the FAPD SharePoint under program questions.
 
 

 /s/

JIMMY BRAMBLETT
Deputy Chief for Programs  

 
 

Attachment A – VFR Guidance Matrix

Attachment B – EQIP NRCS-CPA-1200 and Appendix

Attachment C – RCPP-EQIP NRCS-CPA-1200 and Appendix

Attachment D – Preapproval Letter (440-CPM-512-J-512.94)

Attachment E – Program Eligibility Certification Letter (440-CPM-512-J-512.91)

Attachment F - Preobligation Checklist EQIP    

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