NRCS provides assistance for agricultural producers to improve water quality
BISMARCK, North Dakota, May 23, 2014–USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide $654,000 in assistance to North Dakota farmers and ranchers who voluntarily make improvements to their land to improve water quality in four priority watersheds.
Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills announced this year’s funding for the National Water Quality Initiative yesterday 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,” said Mary Podoll, North Dakota’s state conservationist. “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 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. Funding will be made available to eligible producers with lands in either the Upper and Lower Goodman Creek Watershed in Dunn and Mercer Counties or the Buffalo Creek and Moon Lake Watershed in Stutsman County.
“The collaborative goal is to ensure people and wildlife have clean, safe water,” said Podoll. “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 websiteto see if you are located in a selected watershed.