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Funding announced for Mississippi River basin


September 28, 2009
By Marg Land

mississippiriverbasinSeptember 25, 2009,
Washington, DC – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced a new
initiative to improve water quality and the overall health of the Mississippi
River Basin.



September 25, 2009,
Washington, DC – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced a new
initiative to improve water quality and the overall health of the Mississippi
River Basin.

The Mississippi River
Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI)
will provide approximately $320
million over the next four years for voluntary projects in priority watersheds
located in 12 key states. Participation in this initiative, which will be
managed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), will be made
available through a competitive process for potential partners at the local,
State and national levels.

 

mississippiriverbasin  
   

The natural capacity of
the Mississippi River Basin to remove nutrients has been diminished by a range
of activities over the years, including modification of floodplains for
agricultural and urban land. MRBI will help agricultural producers implement
conservation and management practices that avoid, control, and trap nutrient
runoff. The initiative is performance oriented, which means that measurable
conservation results are required in order to participate. By focusing on
priority watersheds in these 12 states in the basin, USDA, its partner
organizations, State and local agencies, and agricultural producers will
coordinate their resources in areas requiring the most immediate attention and
offer the best return on the funds invested.

“The USDA is going to
partner with farmers to implement a range of land stewardship practices,
including conservation tillage, nutrient management, and other innovative
practices,” said Dave White, chief of NRCS. “We all live downstream of other
water users and this initiative will help make the Mississippi River Basin and
the Mississippi River and its tributaries healthier for everyone.”

In addition to other
federal, State, and partner funding, NRCS is targeting $80 million annually
over the next four years through Cooperative Conservation Partnership
Initiative
, Conservation Innovation Grants, and the Wetlands Reserve
Enhancement Program
. This is in addition to other NRCS program funding and
assistance such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife Habitat
Incentives Program
, and the Conservation Stewardship Program. These funds will
be available for projects in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa,
Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

MRBI will focus on eight
digit or smaller hydrologic units (watersheds) that contribute high loads of
nutrients in the Mississippi River Basin. Priority watersheds for the
initiative will be identified by NRCS in consultation with conservation partner
organizations and state technical committees. Watersheds will be selected using
an evaluation process that will include information from the Conservation
Effects Assessment Project
, the USGS Spatially Referenced Regression on
Watersheds Attributes
, state-level nutrient reduction strategies and
priorities, and available monitoring and modeling of nitrogen and phosphorus
levels in the basin. Using this watershed evaluation process will ensure water
quality and nutrient issues are improving as part of MRBI.

Assessment of the progress
in implementing MRBI will be critical, as will evaluation of outcomes at the
field scale/edge-of-field and on the watershed basis. Successful measures of
the initiative will include a reduced nutrient footprint and environmental
impact through more efficient use of nutrients for crop production in the
priority watersheds.

For information about the
Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, including eligibility
requirements, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.


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