January 3, 2017
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in late December that USDA and its conservation partners will direct $3.2 million toward two new conservation projects in eastern Iowa. The projects will help communities and farmers improve water quality, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.
Iowa’s projects are two of 88 across the country that will receive $225 million in federal funding as part of USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). In addition, partners have proposed to contribute up to an additional $500 million.
Partners match USDA
RCPP projects are selected on a competitive basis and local private partners must be able to at least match the USDA commitment. RCPP is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The selected Iowa projects include:
• Fox River Water Quality Project. Led by the Davis County Soil and Water Conservation District in southeast Iowa, this project, in its 18th year, is one of the longest-running watershed projects in Iowa. The three-year conservation project aims to improve the health of the Fox River by addressing water quality, conservation, protection and development of natural resources using voluntary programs that provide economic opportunity. NRCS and eight partners will help producers improve water quality through conservation practices like installing grade stabilization structures, water and sediment control basins, tile outlet terraces and cover crops. NRCS is contributing about $900,000 to this project, and the partners are providing $1 million.
• Innovative Conservation Agriculture. Led by the Allamakee Soil and Water Conservation District in northeast Iowa, this project will address water quality and soil health concerns by supporting implementation of cover crops and no-till in conjunction with manure application. The project will also focus on the conversion of marginal cropland to pasture, and the addition of a small-grain crop to a corn-soybean system, preferably with the inclusion of cover crops in the rotation. These practices will help to minimize soil erosion and nutrient runoff. The project will address the need to educate producers and landowners about how different practices affect soil health and long-term productivity. NRCS and its partners are each contributing about $650,000 to the project, for a total of $1.3 million over five years.
With this recent announcement, NRCS is investing a total of $825 million in 286 projects nationwide, bringing together more than 2,000 conservation partners who have committed an estimated $1.4 billion in financial and technical assistance. By 2018, NRCS and its partners, including Indian tribes, nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, private industry, water districts, and universities will have invested at least $2.4 billion through RCPP, which was created by the 2014 Farm Bill.
Signup information will be out soon for Iowa landowners interested in RCPP. To see a complete list of projects, visit nrcs.usda.gov.
Johnson is the public affairs specialist for NRCS in Iowa, based in Des Moines.
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