National Water Quality Initiative
Through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering financial and technical assistance to farmers and forest landowners interested in improving water quality and aquatic habitats in priority watersheds with impaired streams. NRCS will help producers implement conservation and management practices through a systems approach to control and trap nutrient and manure runoff. Qualified producers will receive assistance for installing conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips and terraces. For over 75 years, NRCS has provided agricultural producers with assistance to implement voluntary conservation practices that protect natural resources while maintaining production and profits.
New Jersey Priority Watersheds
Through the help of local partnerships and state water quality agencies, NRCS in New Jersey selected three watersheds located in Salem and Cumberland Counties for this initiative. The Upper Cohansey, Upper Salem, and Upper Alloway Creek watersheds have documented phosphorus, bacteria, and sediment impairments, which may be caused by soil erosion, exposed soil, and lack of riparian buffers and filter strips. While the land use in these areas is varied, the majority of land is in agricultural production, with the Upper Cohansey watershed at 68% of its land area in agriculture, the Upper Salem at 65% and the Upper Alloway Creek at 41%. Agricultural runoff contributing to these impairments can be mitigated by conservation practices on agricultural lands that may help to reduce the phosphorus, bacteria, and sediment impairments within the watersheds.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection developed plans to address the bacteria (fecal coliform) and nutrients issues within the Cohansey River to achieve water quality standards. The plan developed for nutrient management calls for a high reduction in total phosphorus loading for freshwater rivers. Conservation practices that can reduce phosphorus loading within these watersheds include no-till farming, cover cropping, conservation crop rotation, nutrient management, filter strips, and irrigation water management.
Conservation Funding and Practices
NRCS conservation professionals will provide technical assistance and planning tools to determine which conservation actions will provide the best results to improve water quality on your land. Nutrient management systems, erosion control, conservation tillage, pest management, and buffers systems are just some of the practices being offered as part of the National Water Quality Initiative. To help install these conservation practices, financial assistance to share in the cost of these conservation practices is available though the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
NRCS identified priority watersheds through the help of local partnerships and state water quality agencies. Partners sometimes offer financial assistance in addition to NRCS programs. NRCS will continue to coordinate with local and state agencies, conservation districts, nongovernmental organizations and others to implement this initiative. This strategic approach will leverage funds and provide streamlined assistance to help individual agricultural producers take needed actions to reduce the flow of sediment, nutrients and other runoff into impaired waterways.
Numerous conservation partners have been focusing efforts in these watersheds in recent years with a goal of improving water quality. Groups such as New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Cumberland-Salem Soil Conservation District and the Cohansey Area Watershed Association have all been working to improve water quality in this region.
Water quality conservation practices benefit agricultural producers by lowering input costs and enhancing the productivity of working lands. Conservation investments are good for all Americans because well managed farms limit pollution from runoff, produce food and fiber, sustain rural economies, and provide food security to the Nation. All across the country—farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are voluntarily taking action and putting conservation on the ground to improve water quality on millions of acres!
NRCS is proud to be involved in a nationwide effort with landowners and communities to improve and protect our water resources. The landowners and farmers participating in the initiative will receive conservation payments to work on the land in a sustainable way which provides cleaner water. In addition to the financial assistance, the land will remain productive into the future. Communities benefit by having clean waterways, safer drinking water and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.
How to Apply
To get started, make an appointment at your local office. You will need to establish eligibility and farm records for your land. NRCS will help you complete an application while explaining which conservation practices are available in your watershed. Remember to check with your local NRCS office to see if you are located in a selected watershed. View Current Funding Opportunities for current application periods. A signed application indicates an interest in developing a conservation plan, the first step in the application process.
USDA - NRCS, Woodstown Office
51 Cheney Road, Suite 2
Woodstown, NJ 08098
PHONE: (856) 769-1126 ext. 3
USDA - NRCS, Vineland Office
Building 5, Suite A
1318 South Main Road
Vineland NJ 08360
How Does Signup for EQIP Work?
EQIP applications can be submitted anytime during the year. EQIP has a continuous sign-up with application cut-off dates to rank and prioritize any new or unfunded applications. A signed application can be filed with the local NRCS office at any time. View Current Funding Opportunities for current application periods. A signed application indicates an interest in developing a conservation plan, the first step in the application process.
EQIP is a competitive program that uses an evaluation and ranking process to assess the needs and cost effectiveness of implementing the conservation plan. Applications are grouped for competitive ranking into "funding pools" with the highest ranked applications in each pool selected for contract development. Funding pools that NRCS has established have been cropland, irrigated cropland, livestock, and forestland. View the application documents page for more information on ranking tools.
Contract offers that include practices to address soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, reduced animal waste production and reduced energy consumption are high priority.
Visit Opportunities for Historically Underserved Producers in New Jersey to learn more about how NRCS is committed to ensuring that its programs and services are accessible to all our customers, fairly and equitably, with emphasis on reaching the under served and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and tribes of our state.