USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will allocate US$21m for growers and ranchers to apply conservation practices in some of the country’s most severe drought-stricken areas. Financial aid and technical assistance will be available to producers in eight states to increase irrigation efficiency, improve soil health and productivity, and ensure reliable water sources. These are California, Kansas, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.
“Every day, NRCS conservationists work side-by-side with agricultural producers and help them conserve water and increase resilience in their operations,” said USDA secretary Tom Vilsack. “Today’s investment will provide additional resources in drought-stricken areas to help farmers and ranchers implement solutions to mitigate the impacts of sustained drought.”
This announcement comes on the heels of several programmes to help growers and ranchers conserve water, improve soil health, and build long-term agricultural resilience. Several state offices of NRCS have allocated significant portions of their Environmental Quality Incentives Programme (EQIP) to focus on drought management. In California, more than US$27m of fiscal year 2015 EQIP funding is earmarked for water conservation.
This funding will help defray the cost as producers apply water conservation practices including cover crops, nutrient management, and irrigation systems. According to NRCS, growers and ranchers contribute half the cost of implementing these practices on average.
NRCS has invested more than US$1.5bn in financial and technical assistance to growers to aid in implementing conservation practices. NRCS is also partnering with the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to help fund projects that focus on water conservation and resilience. NRCS last year committed more than US$84m in 35 projects in the first round of RCPP funding, which was matched dollar-for-dollar by partners.
Vilsack recently announced a second round of RCPP funding will be available which will total US$235m available for drought and water conservation.