Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report that shows farmers have significantly reduced the loss of sediment and nutrients from farm fields through voluntary conservation work in the lower Mississippi River basin. Secretary Vilsack highlighted the value of conservation programs to these efforts, and called on Congress to pass a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that would enable USDA to continue supporting conservation work on farms and ranches.
The report, released by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), marks the completion of a watershed-wide assessment of conservation efforts in the Mississippi River watershed. Its findings demonstrate that conservation work, like controlling erosion and managing nutrients, has reduced the edge-of-field losses of sediment by 35 percent, nitrogen by 21 percent and phosphorous by 52 percent.
While the report shows the positive impacts of conservation, it also signals the need for additional conservation work. The most critical conservation concern in the region is controlling runoff of surface water and better management of nutrients, meaning the appropriate rate, form, timing and method of application for nitrogen and phosphorous.
Model simulations show that an increase in cover crops will have a significant impact on reducing edge-of-field losses of sediment and nutrients and improve water quality.
The information in the report will help further develop NRCS’ work in the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative and Gulf of Mexico Initiative, aimed at helping producers improve water quality, restore wetlands and sustain agricultural profitability.
Download a fact sheet, a summary or the full report. Learn more about USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project.