Agricultural Water Enhancement Program
The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) is a voluntary conservation program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers in approved watersheds. The Raritan River AWEP project was approved as a water quality project. The assistance enables producers to implement agricultural water enhancement activities that are consistent with State water law on agricultural land for the purposes of conserving surface and ground water and improving water quality.
The agency may enter into partnership agreements to leverage available resources to achieve a shared conservation goal consistent with the purposes of AWEP. In New Jersey, a partnership between the North Jersey Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D), the New Jersey Water Supply Authority (NJWSA) and NRCS was approved in 2009 to provide financial and technical assistance to owners and operators of agricultural lands in the Raritan River basin to protect water quality.
NRCS and RC&D professionals work with producers to develop a conservation plan for their operation, design conservation practices, and provide guidance to help implement the plan. The New Jersey Water Supply Authority may provide additional financial assistance for certain practices and projects, to further reduce the cost to participants.
What Practices Receive Funding?
Eligible conservation practices are those that will have a positive impact on the quality of water leaving the farm through runoff or infiltration into groundwater. The specific list of practices is updated annually and available online or at the local NRCS or RC&D office. This list also includes which of these practices may be eligible for additional funding from NJWSA. A separate contract must be entered into with NJWSA to receive the supplemental funding.
January 28, 2013, announcement from New Jersey Water Supply Authority
RARITAN BASIN AG MINI-GRANTS PROGRAM AVAILABLE FOR FARMERS IN TARGET AREAS
The New Jersey Water Supply Authority (NJWSA) is offering cost-share funding to farmers in four target watersheds for the installation of conservation practices that improve soil and water resources while also protecting water quality. The four watersheds – Mulhockaway Creek, Spruce Run, Neshanic River and South Branch Raritan – are important components of NJWSA’s Delaware & Raritan water supply system, which provides drinking water to more than 1.5 million customers in central New Jersey.
Who is Eligible?
Applicants must have an interest in an agricultural operation that is predominantly located within one of three designated sub-watersheds of the Raritan River basin:
Spruce Run/Mulhockaway Creek
South Branch/Long Valley
Applicants must be compliant with the conservation provisions of the 2008 farm bill with current crop and producer records on file with USDA’s Farm Service Agency. They must own or control the land, and agree to implement conservation practices according to the contract schedule.
Spruce Run/Mulhockaway Creek
South Branch/Long Valley
Land is not eligible for EQIP if it is currently enrolled in another USDA Farm Bill conservation program, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). Land is also ineligible if it is used for mitigation purposes, or if it is publically owned, unless the publically owned land is part on an eligible landowners operation and is not the only land offered for enrollment in EQIP.
What is the Contract Period?
Applications for federal AWEP contracts are accepted at any time. A contract offer is developed with NRCS and approved by the applicant based on the conservation plan for the farm. Ranking points are awarded under four categories, with National, State and Local priority issues and a practice cost-efficiency calculation each contributing 25% of the total score. Applications will be ranked and contracts approved each month starting in November, until the available funds for the federal fiscal year are exhausted.
Federal AWEP contracts have a minimum term that ends one year after the implementation of the last scheduled practice and a maximum term of ten years. Contracts provide pre-determined program payments to the producer for the implementation of the planned practices according to a schedule developed with the producer.
The schedule lists the conservation practice extent (amount), date to be installed, and payment. The practices must meet NRCS technical standards. Any deviation from the contract schedule is considered a contract violation unless approved in advance.
What are the Payment Rates and Terms?
AWEP contract holders receive federal payments based on rates of between 45 and 75% of the typical cost of implementing the practice, as determined by the State Technical Committee. If the applicant is a beginning farmer, socially disadvantaged or limited resource producer, the rates are 25% higher, up to a maximum of 90%. Payments are made after conservation practices are implemented to the standards agreed to in advance.
Payment for grazing and animal waste control practices will be based on the livestock that have been housed or grazed on land under the operator’s control for at least 12 of the previous 36 months, with an allowance for normal variations in animal numbers. The contract holder may increase the size or extent of a contracted practice at their own expense. Waivers can be requested in writing to the State Conservationist.
Supplemental payments are now available from New Jersey Water Supply Authority for certain practices. Information on payment rates and contract terms for these supplemental contracts is available at the NJWSA Mini-Grants website.
Contact for program information and to learn about potential additional funding for successful applicants
Contact for AWEP information and to apply