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News Release

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Announces Funding for Edge of Field Water Quality Monitoring in Arkansas

Little Rock, Ark., August 5, 2013 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced the availability of more than to $2.3 million for farmers and landowners in Arkansas to receive financial assistance for a new project to monitor edge of field water quality on agricultural lands in targeted watersheds throughout the state.  Funding for these projects comes from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for voluntarily monitoring practices in 12-digit priority watersheds which have been targeted for funding.

“NRCS is working aggressively to improve the health of the watersheds in the state and the Mississippi River Basin," said Arkansas State Conservationist Mike Sullivan.  “These edge of field monitoring projects requested by Arkansas producers will help document the positive environmental benefits of conservation practices.  These producers are working with our conservation partners to put more conservation on the ground to improve water quality, maintain productivity and enhance wildlife habitat.” 

Producers can use the data from water quality monitoring and evaluation to measure the effectiveness of conservation practices and systems such as nutrient management, cover crop, and irrigation water management.  Evaluation of conservation practice effectiveness through edge of field monitoring will lead to a better understanding of nutrient and sediment loading and will assist NRCS and participants in adapting or validating the application of conservation measures.

“This funding will help producers implement edge of field water quality monitoring in eight Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) project areas and one watershed in the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI),” said Sullivan.  “We expect the data will help farmers adapt their management to both increase productivity and water quality.”

The edge of field monitoring will be incorporated into a multi-partner effort for three tier water quality monitoring.  These three tiers will include edge of field monitoring by landowners and their university partners, in-stream monitoring at a small watershed level, and in-stream monitoring where the stream pours into a larger watershed.  The in-stream evaluations will be provided by state and university partners through Project 319 and other funding sources.

The MRBI watershed projects that were approved for monitoring in Arkansas are:  Bayou Meto (Middle) in Lonoke County; East Arkansas Enterprise Community, L’Anguille River in St. Francis County;L’Anguille in Cross County; Tyronza River in Mississippi County;Point Remove in Pope County; Middle Cache in Jackson County;Middle Bayou Macon in Desha County; and Lower St. Francis 2010 in Poinsett County.  

The NWQI watershed project that was approved for monitoring is Jacks Bayou in Jefferson County.

Landowners will work closely with one or more of the monitoring partners including the USDA Agricultural Research Service, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and Arkansas State University.  These groups will assist NRCS with monitoring activities within their respective watershed once landowners are approved and equipment has been installed.

“This is exciting and positive news for Arkansas agriculture as it will help document the effectiveness of soil and water conservation efforts,” said Dr. Mike Daniels, Extension Water Quality professor at the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture Research and Extension.  “It will also assist our producers in their efforts to be proactive on natural resource concerns.  Farmers value stewardship and want to know how their practices are affecting water resources.”

“Water quality monitoring is a valuable component in the conservation tool chest,” said Andrew Wargo, III, Desha County Conservation District chairman.  “The information obtained from MRBI monitoring sites and Discovery Farm sites will serve to validate benefits derived from the suite of practices being implemented.  We will be able to better quantify the results and share with conservation organizations, as well as the general public, the reductions in off-site movement of soil particles and nutrients.  We at the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts, and I, as a land manager, MRBI sponsor, Conservation District Director, and concerned citizen, commend NRCS for implementing the practice.”

For additional information, such as practice cap and to check to see if you are located in a selected watershed click here for MRBI or NWQI. To locate a local NRCS field office, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/main/national/contact/local, call your local USDA service center listed in the telephone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture, or call your local conservation district.