WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has named 379 priority watersheds to help agricultural producers improve water quality across the country. Producers in these targeted watersheds will receive focused financial and technical resources through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) successful landscape-level water-quality efforts, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).
“We see a positive impact when we partner with producers to deliver conservation practices to critical watersheds,” said Farm Production and Conservation Under Secretary Bill Northey, who made the announcement at the Hypoxia Task Force meeting today. “These focused partnerships allow us to maximize the delivery of our conservation efforts and achieve greater improvements to water quality, which benefits the participating producers, the public, and our nation’s natural resources.”
NRCS launched MRBI in 2009, focusing on watersheds in the Mississippi River Basin to advance the efforts of the Hypoxia Task Force by supporting each member-state’s nutrient reduction strategy. The Hypoxia Task Force includes federal, tribal, and state agencies in the Mississippi River Basin working to reduce hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. NWQI was initiated in 2012 to address agricultural contributions to surface waters impaired by nutrients, sediment, and pathogens Since then, priority watersheds across the country have seen improvements, including the delisting of once impaired streams.
The technical and financial assistance from NRCS assists farmers and ranchers with implementing practices that avoid, control, and trap nutrients and sediment, which can negatively impact water quality. Practices include filter strips, cover crops, and manure management, which promote soil health, reduce erosion, and lesson nutrient runoff.
NRCS strengthened its focus on watershed assessment and partner engagement in priority small watersheds since 2019. NRCS encourages state partners to begin collaboration on MRBI and NWQI priorities for Federal Fiscal Year 2022 which begins on October 1, 2021. See the NRCS website for a list of the watersheds for MRBI and for NWQI.