Today Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that $8.4 million in financial assistance is available to support 23 new partnership projects in several Mississippi River Basin states under USDA’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). On the phone with reporters to talk about it this morning was NRCS Chief David White, seen here talking with participants in the recent Conservation in Action Tour conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center.
These projects will fund producer activities that will avoid, control and trap sediment and nutrient runoff from agricultural lands, improving water quality throughout their operations.
“We are building on our Mississippi River actions from previous years by continuing to target priority conservation practices in priority watersheds to improve water quality in the basin,” Vilsack said. “USDA is committed to working cooperatively with agricultural producers, partner organizations and state and local agencies to improve water quality and the quality of life for the millions of people who live in the Mississippi River Basin.”
The MRBI was first announced in September 2009 and provides financial assistance for voluntary projects in priority watersheds in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
I asked Chief White how well these partnerships are working after he saw some of them “in action” recently. He pointed to one of the farms we visited that is using two stage irrigation ditches which is one of the projects previously funded by USDA-NRCS in 2011. He says they hope to expand that practice to other areas. He also mentioned being impressed by the younger farmers who were on the tour and making conservation work, including financially. He says, “We can have conservation in harmony with agricultural production and we’re going to prove that.”
Listen to my Q&A with David here: Q&A With NRCS Chief David White