West Virginia has 14 different Local Working Group areas for EQIP allocations and rankings. The areas range from 1 county to 6 counties and cover all of West Virginia’s 55 counties. The Local Working Groups are organized by the West Virginia Conservation District boundaries. In West Virginia, the Conservation Districts are based on the major watershed boundaries in the state.
Each Conservation District convened Local Working Group meetings to identify and prioritize their natural resource concerns which EQIP can address. The Local Working Groups included representatives of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Conservation Districts, State Conservation Agency, Cooperative Extension, Dept. of Natural Resources, Dept. of Environmental Protection, US Fish and Wildlife, County officials, and other elected officials.
The Local Working Groups identified and prioritized the needed practices to address the resource concerns. The prioritized practice information was used to develop a ranking sheet to evaluate EQIP applications in the Local Working Group area. West Virginia has 14 different sets of ranking criteria, each addressing the local needs as identified by the Local Working Groups. Each Local Working Group also developed a cost list for practices to be cost shared in their Conservation District’s area. This information was submitted as the Local Working Group’s proposal for consideration by the State Technical Committee and the NRCS State Conservationist. The NRCS State Conservationist makes the final decisions regarding EQIP implementation in the state.
A state allocation formula was used to allocate funds to each of the 14 areas. It includes a variety of factors that address items such as acres of grazing land, acres of cropland, number of unfunded applications, etc. These factors take into consideration national and state EQIP priorities and measures. The State Technical Committee reviews the state allocation formula and makes recommendations to the NRCS State Conservationist. Each of the 14 Local Working Groups will receive a funding allocation, based on the state allocation formula. There is no guarantee that every county will receive funding. Applications within the Conservation District will be ranked and funded based on the ranking criteria for that area. Land users in every county will have the opportunity to apply and compete for EQIP funding, but there will not be a county level allocation.
West Virginia NRCS will establish ranking periods to evaluate and rank all applications received until the end of a given ranking period. Applications will be funded as ranked as far down the list as the funding will allow. A cut off date will be established by the NRCS state office as to when funds must be obligated. If a Local Working Groups funds are not obligated by this date, funds may be reallocated to other areas.
Ranking deadlines for FY 2014 are October 31, 2013 and January 17, 2014.