South Carolina’s Barnwell Soil and Water Conservation District (BSWCD) has been able to dig in to a backlog of Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) applications with the help of an NACD technical assistance grant.
In 2018, when the district was awarded the grant, Bamberg and Barnwell counties had a backlog of more than 400 highly erodible land (HEL) determinations. Without the soil mapping and erodibility assessments, producers’ eligibility for EQIP was hampered.
“Almost 100 of the determinations in Bamberg County needed field visits to measure slope and slope length, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff was struggling to keep up,” BSWCD Administrative Assistant Tracey Morehead said. “We used the grant funds to hire Conservation Technician Sonja Hiers (pictured) in June and quickly put her to work assisting with the HEL determinations.”
Hiers teamed up with NRCS intern Jabril Wright to complete field visits and HEL determinations. Just before Wright’s internship ended in July, the area was struck with a period of continuous rainfall, making field assessments challenging.
“They still had a handful of determinations that needed field visits, though, so as soon as it looked like the rain was letting up, they headed back out into the field,” Morehead said. “They were able to complete most of the field visits they had scheduled for that day, but as they pulled into the second-to-last field, their efforts literally became a ‘stick in the mud.’”
The two drove to the top of a small rise to access a farmer’s field when at the top of the hill, the soft ground bogged them down. Eventually, the pair called upon local farmers to help.
“After some laughs and getting one of the farmers’ trucks stuck in the mud next to the NRCS truck, they were eventually able to get a tractor to come pull both trucks out,” Morehead said. “Their dedication and hard work led them to complete an enormous amount of work that has helped many producers maintain their EQIP eligibility.”