WASHINGTON — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announced on April 25 that additional funding is available for the second year of the National Water Quality Initiative.
NRCS will make available nearly $35 million in financial assistance to farmers and ranchers in 164 priority watersheds this year to implement suites of conservation practices intended to improve water quality.
“These are voluntary efforts focused in small watersheds where the implementation of conservation systems can yield results for locally important waters,” said Jason Weller, acting chief of the NRCS. “When farmers and ranchers work to improve water quality, they also help provide the nation with clean waterways, safe drinking water and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.”
During the first year of the initiative in 2012, NRCS provided $34 million in financial assistance to farmers and ranchers in 154 small watersheds, ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 acres.
This initiative builds on efforts that NRCS already has under way in areas such as the Mississippi River Basin, the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.
The agency worked closely with partners, including state water quality agencies, to refine the eligible priority watersheds this year, selecting one to 12 priority watersheds in every state.
These watershed projects will each address one or more of the following water quality concerns: excess nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment or pathogens.
Eligible producers will receive assistance under EQIP for installing conservation systems that may include practices such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, terraces and, in some cases, edge-of-field water quality monitoring.
NRCS is also piloting its new Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff, a tool that will help landowners determine how alternative conservation systems they are considering will affect water quality.
Additionally, state water quality agencies and other partners will do in-stream and watershed-level monitoring to track water quality improvements in many of the project watersheds.
NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. Check with your local NRCS office to see if your land is in a selected watershed.