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USDA announces support for IA livestock producers


January 6, 2015, Des Moines, IA – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced a host of new efforts to help Iowa’s farmers and livestock producers conserve water and soil resources and improve nutrient management practices on the state’s 30 million acres of farmland.

Vilsack said the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will expand access to the department’s signature conservation programs for Iowa producers, making available up to 85,000 additional acres for sensitive lands, and better target grants and loans for technical assistance and capital improvements, while working with state partners to more closely align priorities in an improved “watershed-based strategy” for nutrient management.

Vilsack said the USDA is ready to undertake the following efforts in Iowa:

  • Invest an estimated $660 million over the next decade to ensure USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) (which collectively invest an average of $66 million per year in Iowa conservation efforts at the current funding levels appropriated by Congress) are coordinated and complimentary to reinforce the state of Iowa’s watershed approach for nutrient management. USDA conservation experts will ensure plans target conservation systems where assistance will be most effective.
  • Over the next decade, USDA will partner with organizations to promote and target wetland restoration to address water quality and habitat needs. Over the next five years, USDA will make available as much as 75,000 additional acres through the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Gaining Ground program, part of the CRP program, targeted to grassland birds, and 10,000 additional acres in the CRP Farmable Wetlands program, designed to restore previously farmed wetlands and wetland buffers to improve vegetation and water flow.
  • Additionally, USDA will work with Iowa’s government to identify and remove barriers to the full use of Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) funding, which targets high-priority conservation on environmentally sensitive lands, in the 37-county area that makes up the Raccoon River Watershed.
  • USDA will accelerate the process of working with Iowa’s government, land-grant institutions and conservation partners to develop an ecosystem market program to better coordinate the efforts between public and private sector partners focused on nutrient management.
  • Enhance outreach and education efforts to Iowa partners to ensure they are fully utilizing and leveraging USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP. Nationally, RCPP has leveraged $800 million in conservation funds from USDA and partners to date, including three significant projects focused on Iowa: the Middle Cedar Partnership Project led by the city of Cedar Rapids; the Iowa Targeted Demonstration Watershed Partnership Project led by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; and a national RCPP funding pool project led by the Missouri Department of Conservation focused on regional grassland bird and grazing lands enhancement.
  • USDA will work with Iowa’s state government, other federal agencies, and local and municipal governments to ensure the $25 million in existing and available USDA resources for water and wastewater treatment facilities in Iowa are being fully utilized.
  • Help to identify an independent body to track coordinated investments, monitor results, and report to the public and stakeholders.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $2.2 billion in Iowa conservation efforts and helped to enroll more than 4.5 million acres of Iowa working lands in USDA conservation programs. Through USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program, which provides rental payments to producers to idle and conserve land, Iowa producers have contributed to a reduction of 260 million pounds of nitrogen and 534 million pounds of phosphorus in the Mississippi River Basin between 2008 and 2013. In addition, findings from a 2014 USDA report show that conservation work on cropland in the Mississippi River Basin, including Iowa cropland, has reduced the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus flowing to the Gulf of Mexico by 18 and 20 percent, respectively.