Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that $8.4 million in financial assistance is available to support 23 new partnership projects in several Mississippi River Basin states under USDA's Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). These projects will fund producer activities that will avoid, control and trap sediment and nutrient runoff from agricultural lands, improving water quality throughout their operations.
"We are building on our Mississippi River actions from previous years by continuing to target priority conservation practices in priority watersheds to improve water quality in the basin," Vilsack said. "USDA is committed to working cooperatively with agricultural producers, partner organizations and state and local agencies to improve water quality and the quality of life for the millions of people who live in the Mississippi River Basin."
The MRBI was first announced in September 2009 and provides financial assistance for voluntary projects in priority watersheds in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin. MRBI is helping producers implement conservation and management practices that prevent, control and trap nutrient runoff from agricultural land. Selections were based on the potential for managing nitrogen and phosphorus -- nutrients associated with water quality problems in the Basin -- while maintaining agricultural productivity and benefiting wildlife. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) manages the initiative.
The 23 selected projects are located in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Below are examples of selected projects and the financial assistance available for their implementation in fiscal year 2012:
Middle Cache River Project (Arkansas) - $222,900 to improve water quality, reduce sediment and enhance wildlife habitat in a watershed near the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. This project supports the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, a commitment by federal, state, and local entities to preserve and protect the nation's natural and cultural heritage. Sponsor: the Jackson County Conservation District.
Upper Minnesota River Project (South Dakota) - $247,287 to improve water quality by helping landowners avoid, control and trap nutrient and sediment runoff from private and Tribal lands. Sponsors: the Roberts Conservation District, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe and others.
Lindsey-Honey Creek Watershed Project (Iowa) - $329,000 to reduce nitrogen entering the Mississippi River from the Maquoketa River Basin. Sponsor: The Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Middle Fork of Salt River Watershed Project (Missouri) - $366,188 to improve and monitor water quality and agricultural productivity. Sponsor: Randolph County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The projects are funded through NRCS's Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI), which engages local partners to help provide outreach and technical assistance to agricultural producers. CCPI funds both new and existing projects each year. Earlier this year, NRCS provided nearly $64 million in financial assistance through Farm Bill conservation programs to support the 95 existing MRBI projects first funded in 2010 and 2011.
USDA works with state and local governments and private landowners to conserve and protect our nation's natural resources, helping preserve our land, and clean our air and water. In 2011, USDA enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and prevent soil erosion. President Obama launched the America's Great Outdoors initiative in 2010 to foster a 21st century approach to conservation that is designed by and accomplished in partnership with the American people. During the past two years, USDA's conservation agencies--the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Farm Service Agency--have delivered technical assistance and implemented restoration practices on public and private lands. We are working to better target conservation investments, embracing locally driven conservation and entering partnerships that focus on large, landscape-scale conservation.
Learn more about the CCPI and the MRBI at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs.