USDA invests in water quality

Written by TF Staff on .

CoverCropsPlanting cover crops are among practices encouraged by USDA's water-quality initiatives.Continuing two of its successful landscape-level water-quality programs, the USDA will invest $56 million this year to help agricultural producers in more than 300 high-pri­ority watersheds across the country.

The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative and the National Water Quality Initiative, administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, offer technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to implement practices that avoid, control and trap nutrients and sediment. Practices include filter strips, cover crops and manure manage­ment, which promote soil health, reduce erosion and lessen nutrient runoff.

“When we partner with producers to deliver conservation practices to critical watersheds, we see a positive impact,” NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said. “Through these partnerships we maximize the delivery of our conservation efforts, which yields greater results to water quality and benefits the public, our natural resources and farmers’ bottom lines.”

NRCS launched the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Water­sheds Initiative in 2009, then took the concept nationwide in 2012. Since then, priority watersheds across the country have seen improvements such as delisting of once-impaired streams.

Within the Mississippi River Basin, NRCS will make available $17.5 million to producers in 13 states, including Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas in MFA territory. Goals are improving water quality, restoring wetlands and enhancing wildlife habitat while ensuring economic viability of farmland along the nation’s largest river.

Additionally, NRCS will make available $38.9 million this year through the National Water Quality Initiative, a partner­ship among NRCS, state water quality agencies and the EPA to identify and address impaired water bodies through voluntary conservation. Financial and technical assistance is provided for small watersheds most in need and where farmers can use conservation practices to address impaired surface water.

NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs year-round, but enrollment periods are set locally. For more infor­mation, contact your local NRCS field office. To find the one nearest you, visit www.farmers.gov/service-center-locator.