Initiative to provide approximately $320 million in USDA assistance in Basin area
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 41 watersheds in 12 states, known as Focus Areas, have been selected to participate in a new initiative to improve water quality and the overall health of the Mississippi River Basin. The selected watersheds cover more than 42 million acres, or more than 5% of the Basin's land area.
"The USDA is committed to working cooperatively with agricultural producers, partner organizations and state and local agencies to improve water quality and the quality of life for the tens of millions of people who live in the Mississippi River Basin,” Vilsack said. "Today's announcement is another step toward achieving this goal, and I encourage as many eligible participants as possible to join us in this major conservation effort."
The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), which was announced on Sept. 24, 2009, will provide approximately $320 million in USDA financial assistance over the next four years for voluntary projects in priority watersheds in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin. MRBI will help producers implement conservation and management practices that prevent, control and trap nutrient runoff from agricultural land.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) manages the initiative. NRCS State Conservationists from the 12 watershed states selected the watersheds with guidance from state technical committees and state water quality agencies. Selections were based on the potential for managing nitrogen and phosphorus--nutrients associated with water quality problems in the Basin--while maintaining agricultural productivity and benefiting wildlife.
Next, smaller watershed projects will be selected through a competitive process under NRCS' Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI). NRCS assistance will be leveraged with contributions from partners, expanding the capacity available to improve water quality throughout the Basin.
Three requests for project proposals will be announced in the next several weeks, including one for CCPI. Funding for CCPI projects will come from NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program.
Two other requests for proposals will fund projects through the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program and Conservation Innovation Grants.