Conservation groups have been waiting – anxiously, in many cases – while USDA mulls over the regulations for the new provisions of the conservation title of the new farm bill, the Agriculture Act of 2014.
Some of those are beginning to be introduced as Ann Mills, deputy undersecretary for natural resources and environment at USDA, talked about at the spring meeting of the Hypoxia Task Force, which was held in Little Rock, Ark., May 21.
During the meeting, Mills announced on behalf of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that USDA will provide $33 million to help farmers and ranchers make conservation improvements to enhance water quality in 174 watersheds across the nation.
“This targeted approach provides a way to accelerate voluntary, private lands conservation investments to improve water quality and to focus water quality monitoring and assessment funds where they are most needed,” Mills said. “When hundreds of farms take action in one area, one watershed, it can make a real difference to improving water quality.”
Funding is provided through the National Water Quality Initiative, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Now in its third year, NWQI expanded to include more small watersheds across the nation, and it builds on efforts to target high-impact conservation in areas such as the Mississippi River basin and Gulf of Mexico.
Mills also said USDA would be making a major announcement concerning the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which was included in the Agriculture Act of 2014, the new farm bill.