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Ranking Criteria


  • Any interested farmer or rancher may submit an application for participation in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  • The State Conservationist has established batching periods to select the highest ranked applications for funding based on the NRCS ranking process, contract approval is dependent on program eligibility determinations.
  • The State Conservationist, in consultation with the State Technical Committee and Local Work Groups, has developed ranking criteria to prioritize and subsequently fund applications addressing priority natural resource concerns in California.
  • In Fiscal Year 2020, NRCS will use the Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) for all program ranking. 

Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART)

CART is designed to assist NRCS conservation planners as they assess site vulnerability, existing conditions, and identify potential resource concerns on a unit of land. CART results are then used to support conservation planning activities for the client. CART also captures this information to prioritize programs and report outcomes of NRCS investments in conservation.

CART is a decision support system designed to provide a consistent, replicable framework for the conservation planning process based on geospatially referenced information, client provided information, field observations as appropriate, and planner expertise. Site evaluations for existing management and conservation efforts are then compared to the quality criteria threshold to determine what level of conservation effort is needed to address resource concerns on the participant’s land.

In general, resource concerns fall into one of three categories for the assessment method used to assess and document a resource concern:

  • Client Input/Planner Observation
  • Degree of cost-effectiveness of the proposed conservation practices;
  • Magnitude of the environmental benefits resulting from the treatment of national priorities;
  • Reflecting the level of performance of proposed conservation practices;
  • Magnitude of the environmental benefits resulting from the treatment of priority resource
  • concerns reflecting the level of performance of proposed conservation practices;
  • Treatment of multiple resource concerns; and
  • Compliance with Federal, state, local or tribal regulatory requirements with regards to natural resources.

CART Ranking Templates

CART will utilize a set of National Ranking Templates created by National Program Managers for all NRCS programs and initiatives. The National Ranking Templates contain four parameters that will be customized for each program to reflect the national level ranking priorities. The four parameters are:

1. Land Uses - NRCS has developed land use designations to be used by planners and modelers at the field and landscape level. Land use modifiers more accurately define the land’s actual use and provide another level of specificity and help denote how the land is managed. Land use designations and modifiers are defined in GM180, Part 600 National Planning Procedures Handbook.

2. Resource Concerns - An expected degradation of the soil, water, air, plant, or animal resource base to the extent that the sustainability or intended use of the resource is impaired. Because NRCS quantifies or describes resource concerns as part of a comprehensive conservation planning process, that includes client objectives, human and energy resources are considered components of the resource base. A specific treatment, such as a structural or vegetative measure, or management technique, commonly used to meet specific needs in planning and implementing conservation, for which standards and specifications have been developed.

3. Ranking Component Weights – A set of five components that comprise the ranking score for an individual assessed practice schedule. The components include vulnerability, planned practice points, program priorities, resource priorities, and efficiency. The points for vulnerability, planned practice points, and efficiency are garnered from the assessment portion of CART.

State Ranking Pools

  • California created state specific ranking pools from the parameters established in the National Ranking Templates.
  • Ranking pool customization allows states to focus funding on priority resource concerns and initiatives identified by the State Technical Committee and Local Work Groups.
  • The state ranking pools contain a set of questions that includes the following sections – applicability, category, program questions, and resource questions.
  • Program participants will be considered for funding in all applicable ranking pools by program.  This will allow more for participants to receive financial assistance.

CART Ranking Pools are customized to incorporate locally-led input and will evaluate the participant’s assessed practice schedule for five main areas:

1. Vulnerability - Site vulnerability is determined by subtracting the existing condition and existing practice scores from the thresholds.

2. Planned Practice Effects - The planned practice score will be based on the sum of the planned practice on that land unit which address the resource concern. These two scores will be weighted by a ranking pool to address the resource concerns prioritized by that ranking pool.

3. Resource Priorities - National and State Program Priorities are set through the Farm Bill, Secretary and Chief Priorities and Locally Led Input from Local Work Groups and State Technical Committee which address land and resource considerations. 

4. Program Priorities - National and State Program Priorities are set through the Farm Bill, Secretary and Chief Priorities and Locally Led Input from Local Work Groups and State Technical Committee which address program purposes. 

5. Cost Efficiency – Summation of Planned Practice Points divided by the log of the summation of Average Practice Cost.

Farm Bill Priority Funding Categories

The 2018 Farm Bill requires that NRCS dedicate financial assistance dollars in the following categories:

  • Livestock – 50%
  • Source Water Protection – 10%
  • Wildlife – 10%
  • Socially Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers – 5%
  • Beginning Farmers or Ranchers – 5%

NRCS Resource Concerns

The following table lists the 47 Resource Concerns NRCS utilizes during the Conservation Planning process.

NRCS Resource Concerns
1. Sheet and rill erosion
2. Wind erosion
3. Ephemeral gully erosion
4. Classic gully erosion
5. Bank erosion from streams, shorelines, or water conveyance channels
6. Subsidence
7. Compaction
8. Organic matter depletion
9. Concentration of salts or other chemicals
10. Soil organism habitat loss or degradation
11. Aggregate instability
12. Ponding and flooding
13. Seasonal high water table
14. Seeps
15. Drifted snow
16. Surface water depletion
17. Groundwater depletion
18. Naturally available moisture use
19. Inefficient irrigation water use
20. Nutrients transported to surface water
21. Nutrients transported to groundwater
22. Pesticides transported to surface water
23. Pesticides transported to groundwater
24. Pathogens and chemicals from manure, biosolids, or compost applications transported to surface water
25. Pathogens and chemicals from manure, biosolids, or compost applications transported to groundwater
26. Salts transported to surface water
27. Salts transported to groundwater
28. Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to surface water
29. Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to groundwater
30. Sediment transported to surface water
31. Elevated water temperature
32. Emissions of particulate matter (PM) and PM precursors
33. Emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHGs)
34. Emissions of ozone precursors
35. Objectionable odors
36. Emissions of airborne reactive nitrogen
37. Plant productivity and health
38. Plant structure and composition
39. Plant pest pressure
40. Wildfire hazard from biomass accumulation
41. Terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates
42. Aquatic habitat for fish and other organisms
43. Feed and forage imbalance
44. Inadequate livestock shelter
45. Inadequate livestock water quantity, quality and distribution
46. Energy efficiency of equipment and facilities
47. Energy efficiency of farming/ranching practices and field operations

Program Contact

RaeAnn Dubay, Program Manager
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Davis State Office, California
Phone: 530-792-5653