The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking for input from the public on two water quality conservation initiatives, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is asking for feedback on the best ways to target program benefits, quantify impact, and improve program delivery and outreach in the future. Feedback can be given through the Federal Register’s website. There is a 30-day public comment period and comments must be submitted by April 7.
“In watersheds across the country, we have seen the benefits of targeting resources, working one-on-one with farmers and ranchers to voluntarily implement conservation practices that improve water quality and often have climate co-benefits” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “We’re proud of what the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative and the National Water Quality Initiative have accomplished, and we look forward to continuing to improve our efforts to ensure they provide the greatest impact for producers, communities and our nation’s waterways.”
Feedback gathered through the Federal Register notice will help NRCS to identify and prioritize improvements to these initiatives starting in fiscal year 2024. Email SM.NRCS.LandscapeConservationInitiatives@usda.gov with questions.
The 12-state Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative uses several Farm Bill programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), to help landowners maintain America’s natural resources through voluntary conservation. States within the Mississippi River Basin have developed nutrient reduction strategies to minimize the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in surface waters within the basin that travel to the Gulf of Mexico. MRBI uses a small watershed approach (HUC 12) to support the states’ reduction strategies.
Over the past ten years, MRBI has helped farmers and ranchers:
- Implement conservation on nearly 1.5 million acres,
- Reduce sediment loss by more than 2.4 million tons,
- Reduce phosphorous loss by more than 5.5 million pounds,
- Reduce nitrogen loss by more than 20.2 million pounds.
The National Water Quality Initiative was launched in 2012 and is a partnership among NRCS, state water quality agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to locate and address impaired water bodies through voluntary conservation. Through NWQI, NRCS provides targeted funding through NWQI for financial and technical assistance to help farmers apply conservation practices to protect water resources.
Over the past ten years, NRCS has helped farmers and ranchers:
- Reduce sediment loss by more than 1.1 million tons,
- Reduce phosphorus loss by more than 3.1 million pounds,
- Reduce nitrogen loss by more than 13.5 million pounds.