This week U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, announced $33 million in new federal resources available to farmers and producers to make necessary conservation improvements in areas with high priority watersheds, including the Great Lakes, Ohio River, Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake and Mississippi River. The funding will be made available through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) administered by the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).
“Increasing the tools and resources available to farmers to improve conservation methods is important to the overall vibrancy of our watersheds,” Brown said. “As we have seen the past few years around Ohio, if run-off is not properly managed it can dramatically harm water quality. These new federal resources will help expand conservation practices, while bolstering the overall efficiency of our producers.”
NRCS will prioritize funding to 174 watersheds in the United States where investment in conservation will make the largest water quality impact. In Ohio, funding will be available to farmers and producers in areas near the Brandywine Creek-Broken Sword Creek, which feeds into the Western Lake Erie Basin, as well as Five Mile Creek-East Fork Little Miami River and East Branch South Fork Sugar Creek, which feed into the Ohio River. Federal funds will combine with state funding and local partners to help provide additional assistance in watershed planning, conservation, and community outreach.
As part of the 2014 Farm Bill, Brown fought to strengthen the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) as a means to help improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The RCPP would consolidates four key areas into one program focused on improving soil and water quality, as well as wildlife habitat restoration. Brown has long fought to protect Lake Erie and the Western Lake Erie Basin.
Additionally, for the first time since 1996, USDA will link crop insurance premium support to protection of highly erodible land and wetlands. Additionally, 60 percent of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds are set aside for livestock operators to invest in cost-shared conservation projects that improve water and air quality and help producers meet their regulatory responsibilities.