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NRCS Debuts New Conservation at Work Video Series

Contact:
Lori Valadez
254-742-9810

TEMPLE, Texas, Feb. 12, 2020 – The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is unveiling a new video series, Conservation at Work, which consists of short, 90-second videos that highlight common conservation practices.

The videos shine the spotlight on farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners from across the United States who tell us their own conservation stories, and how practices are helping them protect and improve resources and save time and money.

“By sharing the conservation successes of our customers, we hope the videos will help educate our customers and the general public and motivate more farmers and landowners to consider conservation,” said Matt Lohr, NRCS Chief.

The Conservation at Work video series can be found at farmers.gov/conserve/conservationatwork.

Video topics include High Tunnels, Micro Irrigation, Waste Storage, Nutrient Management, Rotational Grazing, Cover Crops, and Wetland Restoration.

 

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USDA Invites Input on Regional Conservation Partnership Program Rule

Contact:
Lori Ziehr
254-742-9881

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2020 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which helps partners develop and implement unique conservation solutions that engage farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners. The rule – now available on the Federal Register – takes effect on publication and includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Through RCPP, we co-invest with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “We look forward to making available this improved, more flexible program to partners.”

The 2018 Farm Bill made RCPP a stand-alone program with its own dedicated funding, simplifying rules for partners and producers. Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill reduces the number of funding pools and emphasizes partner reporting of conservation outcomes.

The updated program also expands flexibility for alternative funding arrangements with partners and availability of watershed program authorities to projects outside critical conservation areas.

Submitting Comments

NRCS invites comments on this interim rule through April 13 on the Federal Register. Electronic comments must be submitted through regulations.gov under Docket ID NRCS-2019-0012. All written comments received will be publicly available on regulations.gov as well.

NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule following public comment review.

Applying for RCPP

Eligible partners include private industry, non-governmental organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts and universities. Leveraging of NRCS funding is a key principle of RCPP. Partners are expected to make value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding.

NRCS will make available $300 million for projects in fiscal 2020. The agency anticipates making the first alternative funding arrangement (AFA) funding announcement in March, with the fiscal 2020 RCPP Classic announcement following in summer 2020. For more information, visit the RCPP webpage.

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USDA NRCS Invests in Water Quality Initiative in Texas

Contact:
Kyle Wright
254-742-9865

TEMPLE, Texas, Feb. 24, 2020 – The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $2.28 million this year to help agricultural producers improve water quality in two high-priority watersheds in Texas through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).

The Lampasas River NWQI priority area is located within the Lampasas River watershed near the towns of Lampasas, Kemper, and Briggs, Texas. These watersheds are upstream of Stillhouse Hollow Lake which is a primary drinking water source for much of the surrounding area. These sub-watersheds are in Lampasas and Burnet counties and were selected because of concerns for low dissolved oxygen and bacterial loading. Through this concentrated effort, eligible producers will invest in voluntary conservation practices to help provide cleaner water for themselves, their neighbors and downstream communities. Landowners, NRCS and other partners will work together to preserve and maintain water quality, which in turn will ensure prosperity, productivity and quality of life for surrounding communities and lands.

The Lavon Lake NWQI priority area is located within the Lake Lavon watershed, which is the uppermost reservoir on the East Fork of the Trinity River and is a primary source of raw water supply for the North Texas Municipal Water District. Sub-watersheds are in Grayson, Fannin, Collin and Hunt counties and were selected because of nutrient, sediment, and bacterial loading. NRCS will provide technical assistance and planning tools to determine which conservation actions will provide the best results to improve water quality in the watershed. Nutrient management systems, erosion control, conservation tillage, prescribed grazing, and buffer systems are just some of the practices that will be offered.

“We’ve learned that when we partner with producers to deliver conservation practices to critical watersheds, we see a positive impact,” said Drenda William, acting NRCS state conservationist for Texas. “Through these partnerships, we maximize the delivery of our conservation efforts which yields greater results to water quality and benefits the public, our natural resources, and farmers’ bottom lines.”

Through this initiative, NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to implement practices that avoid, control and trap nutrients and sediment, which in high quantities negatively impact water quality. NRCS has strengthened focus on watershed assessment and partner engagement in priority small watersheds in fiscal 2020. NRCS will soon solicit state partners for new watershed and source water protection areas for fiscal 2021.

National Water Quality Initiative

The initiative is a partnership among NRCS, state water quality agencies, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify and address impaired water bodies through voluntary conservation. NRCS provides targeted funding for financial and technical assistance in small watersheds most in need and where farmers can use conservation practices to address impaired surface water. In 2019, NWQI was expanded to include the protection of both surface and ground sources of drinking water.

Water quality is improving in NWQI watersheds. State water quality agency partners report that 27 percent of NWQI monitoring watersheds show an improvement in water quality in at least one of the NWQI-monitored pollutants (based on 2016 data). Further, 81 percent of these improvements can be attributed to or associated with agricultural conservation practices implemented by farmers and ranchers.

Since its launch, NWQI has:

  • Helped producers implement conservation on 825,000 acres
  • Reduced sediment loss by 850,000 tons
  • Reduced phosphorus loss by 2 million pounds
  • Reduced nitrogen loss by 9.6 million pounds

NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs year-round, but applications are ranked and funded by enrollment periods that are set locally. Producers interested in technical and financial assistance should contact their local NRCS field office.