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News Release

Financial Assistance Available for Agriculture Producers

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Apply by March 1, 2012 for Gulf of Mexico Initiative

Gainesville, FL.; January 5, 2012 – If you live in the Escambia River or Middle Suwannee River Area watersheds, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Carlos Suarez is encouraging eligible agricultural producers to sign-up for the Gulf of Mexico Initiative (GoMI) by March 1, 2012. The initiative is designed to help farmers and ranchers in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas improve water quality and ensure sustainable production of food and fiber. GoMI, announced last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will deliver up to $50 million nationwide in financial and easement assistance over 3 years in 16 priority watersheds.

“This locally-led effort to improve the health of the Gulf Coast region will benefit Florida citizens by producing cleaner water, more abundant wildlife, and healthier fisheries,” Suarez said.

The Florida priority watersheds include the Middle Suwannee River Area in Suwannee and part of Lafayette Counties and the Escambia River in Escambia County. Interested landowners are encouraged to visit the Florida NRCS Website athttp://www.fl.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/fl_GoMI.html to view maps to see if their property lies within one of the announced watersheds.

Financial assistance is available to help producers apply sustainable agricultural and wildlife habitat management systems that will focus on reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, and improving wildlife habitat on cropland, pastureland, and forestland.

Practices may include:
• Installing grade control structures to stabilize eroding gullies
• Implementing precision agriculture to reduce chemical application overlap
• and protect sensitive environmental areas
• Increasing adoption of residue and tillage management, cover crops, and conservation crop rotations to reduce sheet and rill erosion and improve soil organic matter, which will result in cleaner runoff and improved water quality
• Planting grass and trees to stabilize eroding areas
• Installing cross-fences and watering facilities to facilitate grazing distribution
• Controlling cattle access to streams to improve water quality and stream bank stability
• Planting and managing native plant species to improve wildlife habitat and to assist with restoration of a multitude of declining species
• Promoting energy conservation by eliminating the need for annual mechanical removal of sediment from split ditches
• Implementing grazing management
• Installing heavy-use area protection pads

NRCS programs supporting GoMI are the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.

NRCS and their conservation partners developed this initiative in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and President Obama's call to action to help restore the waters, shores, and wildlife populations along the Gulf Coast. This effort incorporates what the public and communities have requested through their input into the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Strategy to restore the Gulf Coast.

For more information about signing-up for the initiative, please contact your local NRCS office. Offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or on-line at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app.

Additional information on NRCS, conservation assistance, and programs is available on the web atwww.fl.nrcs.usda.gov  or at your local USDA - NRCS office.

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