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Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers

Overview

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) includes provisions that address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers and ranchers (“historically underserved producers”). Special considerations may include increased payment rates, advance payments, evaluation under special ranking pools, and priority for funding.

Under these two special ranking pools, funding is made available for beginning and socially disadvantaged producers to promote improved irrigation efficiency and to protect ground and surface water quality. Veteran producers will be awarded additional points if they are competing in these ranking pools.

“Beginning Farmer or Rancher” means a participant who has not operated a farm or ranch, or who has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 consecutive years, and who will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.

  • In the case of a contract with an individual, individually or with the immediate family, material and substantial participation requires that the individual provide substantial day-to-day labor and management of the farm or ranch, consistent with the practices in the county or State where the farm is located.
  • In the case of a contract made with a legal entity, all members must meet these requirements.

“Socially Disadvantaged” means an individual or entity who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. A socially disadvantaged group is a group whose members have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. Socially disadvantaged groups consist of the following:

  • American Indians or Alaskan Natives
  • Asians
  • Blacks or African Americans
  • Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders
  • Hispanics

For an entity, at least 50 percent ownership in the farm business must be held by socially disadvantaged individuals.

Note: Gender alone is not a covered group for the purposes of NRCS conservation program authorities. The term entities reflect a broad interpretation to include partnerships, couples, legal entities, etc.

"Veteran Farmer or Rancher" means a producer who served in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, including the reserve component thereof; was released from service under conditions other than dishonorable; and:

  • Has not operated a farm or ranch, or has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 years; or
  • Who first obtained status as a veteran during the most recent 10-year period.

A legal entity or joint operation can be a Veteran Farmer or Rancher only if all individual members independently qualify.

The following sections include the applicable land uses, resource concerns and conservation practices for the ranking pools.

Land Uses

The descriptions below are the general NRCS land use definitions - applications should fit within, but do not need to exactly match, these descriptions. Below are the applicable land uses for the water conservation ranking pools.

  • Crop: Land used primarily for the production and harvest of annual or perennial field, forage, food, fiber, horticultural, orchard, vineyard, or energy crops.
  • Pasture: Land composed of introduced or domesticated native forage species that is used primarily for the production of livestock. Pastures receive periodic renovation and cultural treatments, such as tillage, fertilization, mowing, weed control, and may be irrigated. Pastures are not in rotation with crops.
  • Farmstead: Land used for facilities and supporting infrastructure where farming, forestry, animal husbandry, and ranching activities are often initiated. This may include dwellings, equipment storage, plus farm input and output storage and handling facilities.
  • Associated Agricultural Lands: Land associated with farms and ranches that are not purposefully managed for food, forage, or fiber and are typically associated with nearby production or conservation lands. This could include incidental areas, such as odd areas, ditches and watercourses, riparian areas, field edges, seasonal and permanent wetlands, and other similar areas.
  • Grazed: Where grazing animals impact how land is managed.
  • Irrigated: Where an operational irrigation system is present and managed to supply irrigation water.

Resource Concerns

The goal of conservation planning is to help each client attain sustainable use and sound management of soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources, based on related human considerations (SWAPAE+H).  Below is a list of priority resource concerns for the ranking pools.

SWAPAE+H
Resource Concern Category
Resource Concern
Soil
Concentrated Erosion
Bank erosion from streams, shorelines or water conveyance channels
Classic gully erosion
Ephemeral gully erosion
Soil Quality Limitation
Aggregate instability
Compaction
Concentration of salts or other chemicals
Organic matter depletion
Soil organism habitat loss or degradation
Subsidence
Wind and Water Erosion
Sheet and rill erosion
Wind erosion
Water
Field, Sediment, Nutrient, and Pathogen Loss
Nutrients transported to groundwater
Nutrients transported to surface water
Pathogens and chemicals from manure biosolids, or compost applications transported to groundwater
Pathogens and chemicals from manure biosolids, or compost applications transported to surface water
Sediment transported to surface water
Field Pesticide Loss
Pesticides transported to groundwater
Pesticides transported to surface water
Salt Losses to Water
Salt transported to groundwater
Salt transported to surface water
Source Water Depletion
Groundwater depletion
Inefficient irrigation water use
Surface water depletion
Storage and Handling of Pollutants
Nutrients transported to groundwater
Nutrients transported to surface water
Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to groundwater
Petroleum, heavy metals, and other pollutants transported to surface water
Weather Resilience
Naturally available moisture use
Seasonal high water table
Air
Air Quality Emissions
Emissions of airborne reactive nitrogen
Emissions of greenhouse gases - GHGs
Emissions of ozone precursors
Emissions of particulate matter (PM) and PM precursors
Objectionable odor
Plants
Degraded Plant Condition
Plant productivity and health
Plant structure and composition
Plant Pressure
Plant pest pressure
Animals
Aquatic Habitat
Aquatic habitat for fish and other organisms
Elevated water temperature
Livestock Production Limitation
Inadequate livestock water quantity, quality, and distribution
Terrestrial Habitat
Terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates
Energy
Inefficient Energy Use
Energy efficiency equipment and facilities
Energy efficiency farming/ranching practices and field operations

 

Conservation Practices

NRCS conservation practices eligible for financial assistance through these ranking pools are listed in the below table. For more information about NRCS conservation practices visit the following website link: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/technical/?cid=NRCSDEV11_001020.

Practice Code
Conservation Practice Name
Practice Units
Lifespan (Years)
320
Irrigation Canal or Lateral
ft
15
328
Conservation Crop Rotation
ac
1
340
Cover Crop
ac
1
342
Critical Area Planting
ac
10
348
Dam, Diversion
no
15
350
Sediment Basin
no
20
355
Groundwater Testing
no
1
388
Irrigation Field Ditch
ft
15
428
Irrigation Ditch Lining
ft
20
430
Irrigation Pipeline
ft
20
436
Irrigation Reservoir
ac-ft
15
441
Irrigation System, Microirrigation
ac
15
442
Sprinkler System
ac
15
443
Irrigation System, Surface and Subsurface
ac
15
447
Irrigation System, Tailwater Recovery1
no
15
449
Irrigation Water Management
ac
1
450
Anionic Polyacrylamide (PAM) Application
ac
1
464
Irrigation Land Leveling
ac
15
466
Land Smoothing
ac
10
484
Mulching
ac
1
521
Pond Sealing or Lining, Geomembrane or Geosynthetic Clay Liner
no
20
533
Pumping Plant
no
15
557
Row Arrangement
ac
5
558
Roof Runoff Structure
no
15
587
Structure for Water Control
no
20
601
Vegetative Barrier
ft
5
614
Watering Facility
no
20
620
Underground Outlet
ft
20
629
Waste Treatment
no
10
650
Windbreak/Shelterbelt Renovation
ft
15
672
Building Envelope Improvement
no
10
740
Pond Sealing and Lining, Soil Cement
no
20
910
TA Planning
no
1
911
TA Design
no
1
912
TA Application
no
1
913
TA Check-Out
no
1

Interested Applicants

For more information about EQIP, how to apply and program eligibility, interested applicants should contact a NRCS field office in the county which you own land or where you have an agricultural operation. 

Visit https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/ to find the NRCS representative for your county.