USDA announced Monday that $21 million in farm bill funding will go to "science-based" solutions that help crop and livestock producers in drought-stricken states apply conservation practices that can mitigate the effects of long- and short-term drought.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service will help producers focus on efforts to improve irrigation efficiency, improve soil health and productivity, and ensure reliable water sources for livestock operations, the announcement said.
"Every day, NRCS conservationists work side-by-side with agricultural producers and help them conserve water and increase resilience in their operations," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "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."
Expanding on existing conservation
The funding builds on previous drought mitigation efforts that help producers conserve water, improve soil health and build long term agricultural resilience into their operations.
The funding announced Monday is for technical and financial assistance through EQIP to target areas that are experiencing either exceptional or extreme drought conditions as of the May 5, 2015, U.S. Drought Monitor.
Efforts will include prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, cover crops, nutrient management, irrigation systems, and other water conservation practices.
On average, farmers and ranchers contribute half the cost of implementing conservation practices, USDA estimated.
On an ongoing basis, NRCS also is leveraging partner investments through the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program to put further resources toward projects that foster water conservation and resilience. Vilsack announced a second round of RCPP funding availability earlier this year that will make up to $235 million available for targeted conservation, highlighting drought and water conservation as a resource concern for potential projects.
Other projects also include last week's announcement of $6.5 million in additional drought-related funding through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative.
Producers and landowners are encouraged to visit the NRCS website or stop by their local NRCS office to find out if they are eligible for this new funding.