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News Release

USDA Awards University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service $969,299 Conservation Innovation Grant

LITTLE ROCK, AR, Aug. 24, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, was awarded a $969,299 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) for a project that will test and prove innovative approaches to conserving America’s private lands.   

The grant will be used to test low-cost water monitoring equipment at Arkansas’s Discovery Farm installations.  Discovery Farm is a project where research is conducted on commercial farms, not laboratories.

Edge-of-field monitoring of farm runoff is important as researchers work to solve the problem of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico – the end of the line for all drainage in the Mississippi River Basin.

“This grant will go a long way to help us perform edge-of-field monitoring, so we can not only see how much water is leaving the farm, but what it’s carrying with it,” said Mike Daniels, extension water quality and nutrient management specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “The monitoring equipment is very expensive.  The equipment we’ll be testing with this grant will enable us to do the same comprehensive monitoring for a lot less money.”

Daniels said the grant will also fund a training program and create materials to engage others in the monitoring program, as well as host a conference in Memphis, TN, that will bring together soil and water professionals from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.   

The objectives of the grant complement monitoring efforts that are part of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), a financial assistance program for agricultural producers within 13 states along the River’s corridor to implement conservation practices to reduce sediment and nutrient losses.

“Conservation Innovation Grants help spur creativity and problem-solving in our nation’s farms, ranches and forest lands,” said Mike Sullivan, Arkansas state conservationist.  “Conservation grants allow the best minds in America to develop unique and innovative solutions that will help make conservation more efficient in the future.”

Partners in the research by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service are Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, University of Wisconsin - Platteville and the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  Grants are awarded to state and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals.  NRCS uses CIG to invest in innovative, on-the-ground conservation technologies and approaches with the goal of wide-scale adoption to address water quality and quantity, air quality, energy conservation, and environmental markets, among other natural resource issues.

For a complete list of CIG awardees and more information about NRCS conservation programs online, visit: