USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is investing $10 million this year in 27 new high-priority watersheds and 13 existing projects that will help improve water quality and strengthen agricultural operations.
NRCS worked with state agencies, farmers and other partners to identify high-priority watersheds that align with established state priorities and have strong partnerships in place — and where targeted conservation on agricultural land can make the most gains in improving local and regional water quality. Conservation systems implemented in these areas will reduce the amount of nutrients flowing from agricultural land into waterways, curb erosion and improve the resiliency of working lands in the face of droughts and floods. This investment builds on $18.5 million already allocated to projects in the basin in fiscal 2015.
These projects are funded through the agency’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), which uses funding from several Farm Bill conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), to help farmers adopt conservation systems to improve water quality and habitat and restore wetlands. Since MRBI’s start in 2009, NRCS has worked with more than 600 partners and 5,000 private landowners to improve more than 1 million acres in the region. Through these partnerships, the initiative more than quadrupled the number of contracts addressing water quality concerns in targeted project areas.
Projects will be funded in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.