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2011 Arkansas Annual Report

Arkansas Annual Report 2011

Dear Arkansans:

On behalf of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Arkansas, I am delighted to present this 2011 agency report to you. It was a great year! We have much to celebrate and many opportunities ahead as we continue to pursue our mission of helping people help the land.

Working with our partners, we accelerated conservation assistance with additional resources to support initiatives such as the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), Illinois River Sub-Basin/Eucha-Spavinaw Watershed Initiative (IRWI), Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), StrikeForce Initiative, energy, and organic. We obligated $16.3 million in financial assistance funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) for these initiatives, including $14.7 million of funding in addition to our regular state allocated funding.

In addition to accelerating outreach work through StrikeForce, we provided outreach and assistance to Native American and Hmong producers. We increased contracts with historically underserved producers by 120 percent (from 134 to 297) including funding beginning farmer and rancher contracts for the first time in several years. We helped producers market their alternative crops with retail establishments, including Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. We also increased participation in our State Technical Committee through various sub-committees and helped re-invigorate local work groups.

We reduced our Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) backlog. We were the first state certified 100 percent complete in the National Easements Staging Tool (NEST) and we established agreements with partners for closing, restoration, and monitoring.

We responded effectively after record floods on 12 streams hit Arkansas in the spring with our Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Twenty-eight sites were funded for a total of $878,076 in financial assistance.

We leveraged more than $1 million in conservation technical assistance funds with $500,000 in non-federal funds to establish 17 Strategic Watershed Action Team (SWAT) positions for the next 2 to 3 years through our partners. We utilized Technical Service Providers (TSP), the Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services (ACES) program, and conservation technical assistance (CTA) agreements to help support additional field positions through our partners with approximately 35-40 more "boots on the ground".

Thanks to Arkansas producers, our conservation partners and NRCS employees, we were able to effectively utilize the $97 million allocated to Arkansas NRCS in FY11 to get conservation on the ground better and faster than ever. As we move into another year, I expect we will continue on our path of improvement and excellence in conservation delivery, even during these times of tight budgets. Our best is yet to come!

Mike Sullivan
State Conservationist