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News Release

USDA/NRCS Invests To Improve Water Quality in Mississippi River Basin

Laura T. Anderson, Acting Public Affairs Specialist

JACKSON, Miss., October 4, 2018 -   The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) /Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest in five (5) high-priority watersheds across the Mississippi River Basin that will help improve water quality and strengthen agricultural operations.  This investment through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) is part of a commitment since 2009 to address critical water quality concerns in priority watersheds while boosting rural economies.

Known as “America’s River,” the Mississippi River is North America’s largest river, flowing over 2,300 miles through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico.  It is the centerpiece of the second largest watershed in the world.  The watershed not only provides drinking water, food, industry, and recreation for millions of people, it also hosts a globally significant migratory flyway and home for over 325 bird species.

This vital river’s elevated levels of nutrients and sediment can impact the quality of life for the tens of millions of people who live in and rely on the Mississippi River Basin.  Elevated nutrient levels are also contributing to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic (low-oxygen) zone.  To address these water quality concerns and agricultural sources of nutrients and sediment, NRCS works with farmers and conservation partners to implement conservation practices that help trap sediment and reduce nutrient runoff to improve the overall health of the Mississippi River.

The specific projects targeted in Mississippi for FY 2019 are the Christmas/Stillwater in Bolivar and Washington Counties, Long Lake in Sunflower and Bolivar Counties, Brook/Tommie Bayou in Bolivar County, Burrell Bayou in Sunflower County, and Beaver Bayou-Mound Bayou in Bolivar and Sunflower Counties.

These projects are funded through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI), which uses several Farm Bill conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  They help farmers adopt conservation systems to improve water quality, enhance wildlife and restore wetlands.  In addition, they have shown to reduce loss of nutrients and sediment to waters that eventually flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

MRBI is one of many landscapes-level efforts to address water quality.  Financial assistance is available to qualified Mississippi landowners wanting to address specific resources concerns in these watersheds.  Applications must be received by November 16, 2018, to be eligible for the first sign-up.

To qualify for EQIP, an applicant must be an individual, entity or joint operation that meets eligibility criteria. Applications for all NRCS financial-assistance programs are accepted on a continuous sign-up process; however specific sign-up deadlines are established to rank, contract and fund qualified tracts of land. The deadline to sign up to be considered for funding in the MRBI first ranking period of FY 2019 is November 16, 2018.
Interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local USDA service center.