USDA?invests in Midwest environment

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in mid-February that it would provide as much as $35 million over a three-year period to help landowners conserve grasslands and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region – Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

According to the USDA, the grasslands and wetlands in this region provide important water storage capabilities that can help reduce regional flooding. Additionally, the potential to store carbon in the soil can help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“This region … provides critical breeding and nesting habitat for more than 60 percent of the nation’s migratory waterfowl,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA under secretary for natural resources and environment, in a statement released Feb. 14. “Our goal is to help landowners manage their working lands in a way that’s compatible with agricultural production and good stewardship of the soil, water and habitat resources of the area, so we are really talking about keeping working lands working.”

Through USDA initiatives, farmers, ranchers and others will be able to receive financial and technical assistance through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Among the sources of funding will be the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and a Ducks Unlimited-NRCS partnership.

The technical assistance being mobilized by the department will also include help completing certified wetland determinations to meet federal requirements. The 2014 Farm Bill also has provisions that allow the USDA to orchestrate an array of initiatives to help conserve grasslands and wetlands.

The Messenger applauds these USDA investments that can help preserve and enhance the environment in the American heartland.