North Carolina Ag-Cost Share Program

Purpose of the Program

Nonpoint source pollution has been identified by the NC Division of Water Quality as the primary source of degradation of freshwater rivers and streams in North Carolina. About 17 % of North Carolina's freshwater rivers and streams are impaired and do not fully support their intended uses (out of 91% evaluated). Most widespread sources are agriculture (53% of use support impairment/9% of total stream miles), urban runoff, and construction. Sediment (48% of use support impairment/8% of total miles) is the most widespread cause of water quality degradation. Source: DWQ 1996 305b.

The approach taken in North Carolina for addressing agriculture's contribution to the nonpoint source water pollution problem is to primarily encourage voluntary participation by the agricultural community. This approach is supported by financial incentives, technical and educational assistance, research, and regulatory programs.

Financial Incentives

Financial incentives are provided through North Carolina's Agriculture Cost Share Program. This program is administered by the Division of Soil and Water Conservation (Division) in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. It has been applauded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and has received wide support from the general public as well as the state's agricultural community. The Cost Share program was authorized in 1983 as a pilot program to address nonpoint source problems in the nutrient sensitive waters of Jordan Lake, Falls Lake, and the Chowan River covering 16 counties. Due to the program's success, it has been extended to all 96 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (Districts) that includes all 100 counties.

While the Soil and Water Conservation Commission (Commission) has the statutory responsibility to create, implement and supervise the Cost Share program, it is delivered at the local level by 492 elected and appointed volunteer District Supervisors who are assisted by a cadre of experts. The experts are employees of the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Soil and Water Conservation, and the District or county.

Participating farmers receive 65% of predetermined average costs of installed best management practices (BMPs) with the remaining 35% paid by farmers directly or through in-kind contributions. Some applicants may be eligible to receive as much as $75,000 per year. Also the program provides local Districts with matching funds (50:50) to hire personnel to plan and install the needed BMPs. The Commission allocates cost share funds to local Districts based on the level of state appropriations and water quality protection priorities.

Cost Share allocation and funding decisions by District Boards are based on their written strategy plans. After receiving their allocation, District Boards review applications from landowners for Cost Share funding and decide who will be funded for BMP installation. The written strategy plans are used to prioritize the BMPs in terms of effectiveness for water quality protection. District Boards are encouraged to place the highest priority on the most cost effective water quality protection measures.

Completed BMPs under the program are subject to random checks by the Division staff and District personnel. Additional checks are required if the BMP relates to animal waste management. Farmers who fail to maintain their BMPs in proper working order are subject to repaying some or all of the original cost share funds.

Since the first cost share contracts were issued in 1984, there have been approximately 24,091 contracts approved for installing BMPs through the end of the 1997 program year, which ended June 30, 1997. It has been estimated that an average of 1.5 million tons of soil have been saved annually during the life of the program.

From its inception, state taxpayers have invested approximately $75.5 million in improved water quality through the installation of BMPs. In the 1996-1997 fiscal year, the Cost Share program received $15,934,897 in state appropriations. The $15.9 million included $7.5 million to bring old animal operations into compliance with the new standards under the .0200 rules. The program cost shared 118 full and part time District technical positions to plan, design, and install agricultural BMPs to improve water quality. The Cost Share program is currently budgeted for $6.9 million in non-reverting, recurring funds. 


Visit the NC Department of Environment & Natural Resources Division of Soil & Water website for:

  • Agriculture Cost Share Program - Database Reports: Query the system by county, program and/or year.
  • Agriculture Cost Share Program - Forms
  • Drought Recovery Response Program
  • List of BMPs approved for the NC Agriculture Cost Share Program
  • N.C. Agriculture Cost Share Program Manual

Participate in the Program

If you would like to complete a NC Agriculture Cost Share Program Application, you may download an application.         

Please mail, fax, or bring the completed form to our office.

 Mailing Address: 
Randolph Soil & Water Conservation District
2222-A S Fayetteville Street
Asheboro, NC 27203
Fax Number: 336-318-6494

Please call to be certain we received your application, Phone: 336-318-6490.