The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its partners will invest nearly $32 million this year in financial and technical assistance for five water quality and wetlands improvement projects in seven Mississippi River Basin states. When fully implemented, the projects will prevent sediment and nutrients from entering waterways, decrease flooding and improve bird and fish habitat. NRCS estimates that this investment will restore 11,400 acres to wetland habitat.

"These projects are great examples of USDA working with partners to improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Through these projects, agricultural producers are voluntarily taking action to restore and protect wetlands on private lands in watersheds that USDA has identified as being critical to water quality restoration in the basin."

Landowners interested in applying for funding should contact their local NRCS office (see here) or the partner listed below. Signup dates may vary based on the individual project.

Arkansas

  • Boeuf River Watershed -- NRCS and Partner Funding: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission $2,178,316.
  • Cache/L'Anguille -- NRCS and Partner Funding: Craighead County Conservation District $214,748.
  • Cache River and Lower Whit-Bayou Des Arc wetlands restoration -- NRCS and Partner Funding: The Nature Conservancy $3,030,000.

Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee

  • Lower Mississippi River Batture hardwood forest and wetlands restoration -- NRCS and Partner Funding: Mississippi River Trust $20,231,933.

Iowa

  • North Raccoon River Wetland Initiative -- NRCS and Partner Funding: Iowa Department of Natural Resources $6,183,000.

Total $31,837,997

NRCS provides funding for these new projects through its Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP), part of the agency's Wetlands Reserve Program. Since 2010, NRCS has formalized WREP agreements under MRBI with 47 landowners in the Mississippi River Basin, investing $17.8 million in long-term conservation easements and wetland restoration projects. Learn more about the WREP here and find out about other NRCS programs and initiatives here.

NRCS is celebrating the 20th anniversary of WRP this year. More than 11,000 of America's private landowners have voluntarily enrolled over 2.3 million acres into the WRP. The cumulative benefits of these wetlands reach well beyond their boundaries to improve watershed health, the vitality of agricultural lands and the aesthetics and economies of local communities. Visit the WRP web page here.