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News Release

USDA Unveils New $328 Million Gulf-area Restoration Strategy

Mark Habiger, Program Manager

Three-Year Plan Guides Investments on Gulf Agricultural Lands

Temple, TexasSept. 22, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a three-year, $328 million restoration strategy to improve water quality and help coastal ecosystems heal following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The strategy will guide USDA conservation efforts on private lands in priority areas of the Gulf of Mexico region.

“We’re working side-by-side with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to improve their operations while taking care of natural resources in the region,” said Salvador Salinas, Texas state conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “With most of the land in the Gulf region privately owned, working lands on the Gulf Coast are pivotal to the region’s recovery.”

As part of NRCS’ Gulf of Mexico Initiative, or GoMI, this three-year plan strategically directs existing and anticipated Farm Bill conservation program funding toward technical and financial assistance in key coastal counties across the U.S. From now through 2018, NRCS will help agricultural producers plan and implement conservation improvements to 3.2 million acres in priority areas, which ultimately result in cleaner water and healthier ecosystems.

In Texas, more than 333,000 coastal acres will reap benefits from this three-year restoration strategy focused on water quality and quantity, restoring coastal ecosystems and leveraging local, state and federal partnership investments. NRCS financial assistance is provided through a number of Farm Bill programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

National modeling from USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project shows voluntary conservation efforts across the Gulf Coast region will prevent 117,000 tons of sediment, the same as 5.85 million bags of soil from a garden center, from running off into coastal waterways. These efforts will also prevent runoff of about 1 million pounds of nitrogen and 200,000 pounds of phosphorus.

The strategy also accounts for NRCS’ role with local, state, and federal conservation partners working to restore Gulf ecosystems following the spill. USDA is the Chair of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and a Trustee of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment. This strategy also builds on USDA’s existing $100 million partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced in 2014. In addition, NRCS and NFWF each plan to invest an additional $5 million in the five Gulf States over the next five years as part of an ongoing agreement between the two groups. 

Coordinating the investments of these multiple funding streams in support of existing watershed scale strategies will yield measurable outcomes for improving the health of Gulf Coast ecosystems and the communities that depend on them, and support a more vibrant agricultural sector.

For more information download the GoMI restoration strategy, contact your local USDA service center, or visit our GoMI webpage.