When entering a bid for General Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), eligible land is evaluated based on the Environmental Benefit Index (EBI). This comprehensive ranking system is used to measure the overall environmental benefits of your proposed CRP project.
Each CRP submission is ranked with an EBI score by the FSA and compared to other applicants in your region to determine which CRP offer will receive a contract. The higher your EBI score, the more beneficial your CRP project is to the environment and the more likely your application will be approved.
To receive the best possible EBI score, it’s crucial for producers to understand the different factors that play into it. In this post, we will review the six major environmental factors that go into your EBI ranking, as well as ways you can improve your score.
N1 – Wildlife Factor (10 to 100 Points)
Improving wildlife habitat is one of the primary goals of CRP. The first EBI factor, N1, evaluates the benefits of your project on the local wildlife. N1 consists of three subfactors: N1a – Wildlife Habitat Cover Benefits, N1b – Wildlife Enhancement, and N1c – Wildlife Priority Zones.
Points for this factor are determined by the planting mixture used to establish wildlife cover, the potential for enhancement of local wildlife such as pollinator populations, and whether the land being enrolled is in a high-priority wildlife area.
N2 – Water Quality Benefits from Reduced Erosion, Runoff, and Leaching (0 to 100 Points)
Another key goal of CRP is to improve water quality. Factor N2 evaluates the benefits of your offer on the quality of both surface and groundwater. This factor also includes three subfactors: N2a – location, N2b – groundwater quality, and N2c – surface water quality.
These subfactors evaluate the potential pesticide, sediment, and nutrient runoff impacts of your project to determine your score. Whether your land is in an approved water quality zone, and the effects on local populations who rely on groundwater for drinking, are also taken into account.
N3 – Erosion Factor (0 to 100 Points)
Reducing the amount of land and soil erosion to ensure the long-term sustainability of the land is another crucial objective of CRP. The third factor, N3, assesses the potential for land erosion using an Erodibility Index (EI). Land that is most vulnerable to wind or water erosion will receive a higher score.
N4 – Enduring Benefits Factor (0 to 50 Points)
As mentioned above, long-term improvement and sustainability of the land are critical aims of CRP. The fourth factor, N4, looks at the big picture of your project. It is used to determine the likelihood of your conservation practice to provide environmental benefits past the CRP contract period.
N5 – Air Quality Benefits from Reduced Wind Erosion (3 to 45 Points)
N5 reviews your project’s impact on wind erosion. Its four subfactors, N5a – Wind Erosion Impacts, N5b – Wind Erosion Soils List, N5C – Air Quality Zones, and N5d – Carbon Sequestration, consider the land’s potential for wind erosion, the susceptibility of your soil, and the potential for carbon sequestration. It also awards points to acres located in specific air quality zones.
N6 – Cost
Finally, the overall cost of your project is taken into consideration. N6 consists of two subfactors: N6a – Cost, and N6b – Offer Less Than Maximum Payment Rate. These factors are intended to optimize the environmental benefits of CRP rental payments per dollar. But while a lower rental rate can increase your score, it also means you receive a lower monthly payment for your project.
How to Maximize Your EBI Score
Due to the high demand for enrollment, landowners applying to CRP should ensure that their bids are competitive. To receive the highest possible EBI score, there are a few additional factors that participants should consider before making their bid. For instance, choosing the most environmentally sensitive land improves the chances of your offer being accepted.
Most importantly, the specific Conservation Practice (CP) you choose and the seeds you use for your practice influence your EBI score. By selecting a CP that makes the most sense for your land, and a diverse seed mix, you have the greatest chance of getting your offer accepted.
But whether you’re new to CRP or an experienced participant, understanding the scoring process and deciding on the right CP can be a challenge. That’s where FDCE comes in. From maximizing your EBI score to choosing a seed mix to establishment, we offer full-service CRP assistance to make your project a success.
Ready to learn how we can help you with your project? Contact us at FDCE today!