The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced $14.4 million of targeted funding in fiscal year 2011 to help eligible agricultural producers in the Mississippi River Basin voluntarily implement conservation practices to improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat.

NRCS Chief Dave White announced the selection of five new projects in Arkansas that will provide technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners to implement conservation practices that prevent, control and trap nutrient runoff from agricultural land; and restore and protect wetlands. Nineteen projects were selected nationwide.

“The projects selected in Arkansas will be implemented working with our conservation partners to accelerate conservation treatment to improve water quality, maintain productivity and enhance wildlife habitat,” said NRCS State Conservationist Michael Sullivan. “Funding for the five new projects will total approximately $13.76 million over the next four years.

“These new projects, along with the six projects previously selected in FY 2010, will help us increase the amount of land in Arkansas where practices are installed to reduce the amount of nutrient runoff and soil erosion associated with agricultural production.”

“The Mississippi River Basin provides drinking water and recreation for millions of people and hosts a globally significant migratory flyway,” White said. “The basin also houses some of our nation’s most productive agricultural land. This announcement builds on the investment we made in 2010 and we will continue to help producers balance critical conservation work with productive agricultural operations.”

Under the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), NRCS will provide the $14.4 million in financial assistance in priority small watersheds using the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) and the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) during fiscal year 2011 for new MRBI projects in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri. CCPI funding is administered through the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. WREP is a component of the Wetlands Reserve Program.

Five CCPI projects were chosen in Arkansas. The projects, first year funding and sponsors are:

Cache River Nutrient Loss Reduction, $160,000, Arkansas Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils, Inc.

The goal of the project is to assist agriculture producers in cultivating conservation measures and implementing practices to address nutrient management in the watershed. This funding is available for landowners in portions of Monroe, St. Francis and Woodruff counties.

Middle Bayou Macon, $881,000, Desha County Conservation District.

The goal of the project is to improve nutrient management in the watershed, especially the application and utilization of nitrogen and phosphorus; reduce nutrient loads entering the watershed; maintain agricultural productivity; enhance wetlands; improve fish and wildlife habitat; and improve water quality and biological health in streams. This funding is available for landowners in portions of Desha and Chicot counties.

Lower St. Francis River Nutrient Loss Reduction, $441,000, Crittenden County Conservation District.

The goal of the project is to reduce nutrient loss from agricultural land in four adjacent 12-digit Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) watersheds in the Lower St. Francis Watershed by improving nutrient use efficiency and reducing runoff. This funding is available for landowners in portions of Crittenden, Cross and St. Francis counties.

Bayou Boeuf, $654,623, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts and Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts.

The goals of the project are to improve nutrient management in the watershed, especially the application and utilization of nitrogen and phosphorus, reduce nutrient loads entering the watershed, maintain agricultural productivity, enhance wetlands, improve fish and wildlife habitat benefits, and improve water quality and biological health in streams. This funding is available for landowners in portions of Ashley and Chicot counties in Arkansas and Morehouse and West Carroll parishes in Louisiana.

Lower Bayou Macon, $447,146, Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts and Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts.

The goals of the project are to improve nutrient management in the watershed, especially the application and utilization of nitrogen and phosphorus, reduce nutrient loads entering the watershed, maintain agricultural productivity, enhance wetlands, improve fish and wildlife habitat benefits, and improve water quality and biological health in streams. This funding is available for landowners in portions of Chicot County in Arkansas and East Carroll and West Carroll parishes in Louisiana.

Earlier in FY 2011, NRCS made available an additional $43 million in financial assistance through farm bill conservation programs to support more than 70 existing MRBI projects first funded in fiscal year 2010. 

These multi-year watershed projects were selected through a competitive process.  A listing of the projects by state, and additional information about the MRBI, are available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi_overview.html.

More information about Arkansas’s new projects is available at www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov/mrbi2011.