Conservation Socioeconomic Study

These documents will give you more information about the study:

  West Virginia Fact Sheet   WV Trifold


    Second Creek in southeastern West Virginia is a tributary of the Greenbrier River, which has been listed as impaired since 2008 due to high concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria (WVDEP 2016). Bacteria source tracking conducted by the West Virginia Conservation Agency (WVCA) determined that bacteria loads to local streams in the watershed may come in equal thirds from the different livestock management systems used in the county (i.e., grazing, confined livestock, and cropland where manure may be spread). The Second Creek Watershed-Based Plan (WVDEP 2008) concluded that about a third of the bacteria load could be reduced from grazing systems by restricting livestock from streams, developing alternative water sources to prevent loading near streams, and implementing practices to reduce stormwater from pastureland. Other practices could help to further reduce bacteria runoff.

Installing Practices to Reduce Pollutants

    Since 2009, WVCA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff have worked with more than 120 farmers to install practices that reduce runoff of sediment, nutrients, and bacteria from livestock operations, achieving significant load reductions for fecal coliform and other pollutants. Practices included fencing to restrict stream access, armored stream crossings for livestock, heavy use area protection pads, vegetated riparian buffers, nutrient management plans, and prescribed grazing strategies (WVCA 2021).

Administering the Survey

    In late 2021, local, state, and federal project partners commissioned a survey of 122 farmers who had participated in conservation practice cost-share programs. Since 2009, those programs included EPA’s Section 319 Program, USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), USDA’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), and West Virginia’s Agricultural Enhancement Program (AgEP). The survey gauged farmers’ views on the environmental, financial, and other results of installing conservation practices, and sought their suggestions on how to improve the distribution of limited cost-share funding for conservation practices.

Specific goals of the survey included determining the following:

  • • Overall economic impact for farmers within the watershed.
  • • Average economic impact to individual participating farms within the watershed.
  • • Economic impact to businesses throughout the watershed and surrounding areas.
  • • Overall type and value of the environmental benefits achieved.
  • • Socioeconomic benefits of nonpoint source pollution control programs, and if these should be factors in selecting priority areas for future funding.
  • • How to improve agency outreach activities for promoting conservation programs.

Survey Results

The survey had a 43% return rate, and the results provide important insight into increasing participation in conservation cost-share programs statewide. Important takeaways about farm production and water quality improvements included:

  • • More than 80% noticed improvements on their land and operations linked to adopted conservation practices.
  • • 80% said the conservation practices adopted by farmers are helping to improve water quality in the watershed.
  • • Nearly 70% said the conservation practices on their farms have helped to reduce soil erosion and pollutant runoff.
  • • More than half of respondents said they have noticed the stream is less muddy and clears up faster after heavy rain.
  • • 78% said conservation practices on their farm have helped to improve production and their financial bottom line.

For more information contact your local conservation district office