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News Release

NRCS provides assistance for agricultural producers to improve water quality

Julie MacSwain

ST PAUL, MINN,  May 22, 2014 — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide $960,000 in assistance to Minnesota farmers and ranchers in 3 priority watersheds who voluntarily make improvements to their land to improve water quality.

Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills announced this year’s funding for the National Water Quality Initiative today during the twice-a-year Hypoxia Task Force meeting, held this week in Little Rock, Arkansas. The initiative helps farmers and ranchers reduce the runoff of nutrients, sediment and pathogens from agricultural land that can flow into waterways.

Now in its third year, NWQI expanded to include more small watersheds across the nation, and it builds on efforts to target high-impact conservation in areas such as the Mississippi River Basin, Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes.

“This targeted approach provides a way to accelerate voluntary, private lands conservation investments to improve water quality and to focus water quality monitoring and assessment funds where they are most needed,” Don Baloun, Minnesota NRCS State Conservationist said. “When hundreds of farms take action in one area, one watershed, it can make a difference — it can stop an algae bloom downstream or keep bacteria from reaching a drinking water source.”

With the help of partners at the local, state and national level, NRCS identified priority watersheds the state where on-farm conservation investments will deliver the greatest water quality benefits. State water quality agencies and local partners also provide assistance with watershed planning, additional dollars and assistance for conservation, along with outreach to farmers and ranchers.  Through NWQI, these partnerships are growing and offering a model for collaborative work in other watersheds.

Minnesota’s three Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC 12) Watersheds for the National Water Quality Initiative include: Gilchrist Watershed,  Elm Creek Watershed and Seven mile Creek Watershed. All three Watersheds are impaired due to sediment and turbidity.In addition, all three Watersheds have at least one impaired 303 (d) impaired water body and A HUC 12 Watershed is approximately 20,000 acres in size.

“The collaborative goal is to ensure people and wildlife have clean, safe water,” said Baloun. “Water quality improvement takes time, but by working together and leveraging our technical and financial assistance, we are better able to help farmers and ranchers take voluntary actions in improving water quality while maintaining or improving agricultural productivity."

Eligible landowners will receive assistance under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program  for installing conservation systems that help avoid, trap and control run-off in these high-priority watersheds. These practices may include nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, and in some cases, edge-of-field water quality monitoring.

Through several different processes, NRCS and partners are measuring the effects of conservation practices on water quality. Edge-of-field monitoring and  an NRCS tool, Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff, help landowners assess the impact of conservation practices on water flowing off their land.

NRCS helped farmers install monitoring stations to test the quality of water flowing off their fields, which will help measure the effectiveness of conservation systems.

NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. Check with your local NRCS office or the Website to see if you are located in a selected watershed.


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