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USDA to spend $32 million on Mississippi River Basin projects

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service 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, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today.

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, Vilsack said.

The projects, which will be located in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee and Iowa, are funded through NRCS’s Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program, part of the agency's Wetlands Reserve Program.

Since 2010, NRCS has formalized agreements with 47 landowners in the Mississippi River Basin, investing $17.8 million in long-term conservation easements and wetland restoration projects.

“We are demonstrating every day that voluntary conservation works,” Vilsack said in a call to reporters, noting that the easements provide many benefits for wildlife.

A USDA official said that farmers have an opportunity to sign up for permanent easements or long term easements of 10 and 30 years.

Landowners interested in applying for funding should contact their local NRCS office.