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Program Documents

New Jersey Soil Health Initiative

cover crop mix of vetch, rye, radish, partridge peaThe Soil Health Initiative offers technical and financial assistance to New Jersey agricultural producers to implement multi-species cover crops and companion conservation practices. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) established this Initiative through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and EQIP eligibility requirements apply.

The goal of the soil health initiative in New Jersey is to achieve healthy functioning soil through implementation of Conservation Cropping Systems that address the four soil health planning principles:

  1. Minimize disturbance
  2. Increase diversity
  3. Keep a living root growing
  4. Keep the soil covered year round

EQIP Application Information

Producers must submit a complete program application and other documentation to support eligibility to be considered for financial assistance through EQIP. NRCS accepts and processes EQIP applications on a continuous basis, but sets application periods to review applications and award contracts. View Current Funding Opportunities for current application periods.

The Core Practice for New Jersey Soil Health Initiative is multi-species crop mix including 3 or more species maintained over a minimum of 90 days.  The multi-species mix must be applied on the same acreage for three consecutive years. Applicants that have received payment for cover crop, but have not met our guidelines for a diverse cover crop, may still be eligible for this initiative to install the higher level of treatment. The seeding mixes must be approved mixes from Table 1 or Table 2 in the NJ NRCS Cover Crop Standard.

For Spring and Summer planted cover crop, termination should not occur prior to:

  • June 15th in planting zones 7a and 7b
  • June 30th in planting zones 6a and 6b

For Winter cover crop, the most limiting planting date of the mix must be met or another species shall be added to the mix to ensure that a minimum of three species in the mix meet the planting date.

Supporting Practices available to producers through the Initiative to complement the multi-species cover crop mix and help ensure that the resource concerns are addressed while implementing and managing the cover crop include:

  • Conservation Crop Rotation
  • Cover Crop
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Nutrient Management
  • Residue and Tillage Management, Reduced till
  • Residue and Tillage Management, No Till
  • Mulching (Leaf Mulching Only)

Ongoing Soil Health Assessment

The NRCS-NJ Soils Team visit the farm to establish a baseline condition for fields enrolled in the EQIP Soil Health Initiative and then conduct a soil health assessment periodically over the next three years. These analyses will help monitor changes in soil health where cover crops and companion practices have been implemented.

Soil analyses will include, but are not limited to:

  • Soil profile description
  • Soil organic matter content
  • Bulk density measurement
  • Soil infiltration utilizing the Cornell rainfall simulator
  • Soil chemical analysis for macronutrients.

EQIP Soil Health Initiative Baseline Assessment: Soil Health Assessment Fact Sheet (PDF – 418 kb)

Who Can Apply

Eligible applicants include individuals, legal entities, Indian Tribes, or joint operations engaged in agricultural production. Eligible producers interested in entering into a financial assistance agreement with NRCS for EQIP assistance may file an application at any time. Applicants must be:

  • An agricultural producer and have control of eligible land for the term of the proposed contract period; eligible land includes cropland.
  • In compliance with the provisions for protecting the interests of tenants and sharecroppers, including the provisions for sharing EQIP payments on a fair and equitable basis.
  • In compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation compliance provisions.
  • Within appropriate payment limitation requirements.
  • In compliance with adjusted gross income requirement.

How Does Signup for EQIP Work?

irrigation in blueberries

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. 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.


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