Public Policy Issues 

Farm Bill 

Every five years, the U.S. Congress reviews or rewrites the Farm Bill, shaping U.S. Department of Agriculture programs for upcoming years. The Irrigation Association actively advocates voluntary farm conservation programs that:

  • Support efficient irrigation, including new installations and improvements to existing systems.
  • Encourage adoption of other water-efficient technologies in states facing severe and prolonged drought.
  • Qualify IA-certified irrigation professionals to work as USDA-approved Technical Service Providers for on-farm irrigation systems.

Under the Farm Bill, IA’s efforts focus on the Environmental Quality Incentive and Agricultural Water Enhancement Programs. The association’s activities in this area are ongoing, with planning already underway for the 2012 Farm Bill.


Learn more:


Environmental Quality Incentives Program


The Environmental Quality Incentives Program is a voluntary conservation title program that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who face threats to soil, water, air and related natural resources on their land. Through EQIP, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides financial incentives to producers to:

  • Promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals.
  • Optimize environmental benefits.
  • Help farmers and ranchers meet federal, state, tribal and local environmental regulations.

The 2008 Farm Bill gives priority to:

  • Water conservation or irrigation efficiency applications that reduce water use.
  • Projects where the producer agrees that associated water savings will not be used to bring new land under irrigation production.
  • Proposals that improve conservation practices or systems already in place.

Under the 2008 Farm Bill, overall EQIP payments are limited to a maximum of $300,000 per person or legal entity over a 6-year period. The Secretary of Agriculture may raise the cap to $450,000 for projects of special environmental significance.


Authorized EQIP funding for the fiscal years covered by the 2008 Farm Bill includes:



$1,200 million


$1,337 million


$1,450 million


$1,588 million


$1,750 million


In March, IA submitted testimony to the appropriate U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee requesting that the committee fund EQIP at the full, mandatory spending level for 2011.


Agricultural Water Enhancement Program


The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program is a voluntary conservation title program under EQIP. AWEP provides financial and technical assistance to help farmers and ranchers conserve ground and surface water, and improve water quality on agricultural lands.


AWEP is a new program in the 2008 Farm Bill and replaces the Ground and Surface Water Conservation Program. Qualifying activities under AWEP include:

  • Water quality or water conservation plan development, including resource condition assessment and modeling.
  • Water conservation restoration or enhancement projects, including conversion to less water-intensive agricultural commodities or dryland farming.
  • Water quality or quantity restoration or enhancement projects.
  • Irrigation system improvement or irrigation efficiency enhancement.

Agricultural producers may apply for financial or technical assistance for qualifying activities directly to NRCS, or through an entity that submits a proposal on behalf of a group of producers. Eligible entities include federally-recognized tribes, states or local governments; agricultural or silvicultural associations; and other agricultural producer groups.


Applicants must be eligible for EQIP funding and selected applications are subject to applicable EQIP requirements. Applications are selected competitively, with higher priority given to proposals that:

  • Include a high percentage of agricultural land and producers in a region or area.
  • Result in high levels of applied agricultural water quality and water conservation activities.
  • Significantly enhance agricultural activity.
  • Allow for monitoring and evaluation.
  • Assist producers in meeting a regulatory requirement.
  • Include the conversion of agricultural land from irrigated farming to dryland farming.
  • Leverage federal funds with those provided by producer(s).

Authorized AWEP funding for the fiscal years covered by the 2008 Farm Bill includes:



$73 million


$73 million


$74 million


$80 million