USDA is releasing $4 million in a first round of funding that will help several states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed plant more trees along riverbanks and streams.
The trees will reduce soil sedimentation and field and animal waste runoff, improving water quality, USDA said.
Under the USDA Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Delaware, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia have each been approved for an additional $1 million to increase or maintain acres enrolled in Chesapeake Bay Riparian Forest Buffer conservation.
USDA challenged the states to craft a proposal during a Chesapeake Bay summit in Washington, D.C. last summer.
In addition to the increased incentives for landowners, Farm Service Agency offices in Maryland and Pennsylvania will receive support to partner with stakeholders for improved outreach and technical assistance.
"By joining federal funds with state resources, the Obama Administration continues its partnership with the Chesapeake Bay stakeholders who are working to make the health of the watershed better than ever," said Michael Scuse, USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services.
Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, said the 2014 Farm Bill has enabled USDA to support expanded conservation practices on crop, pasture and private forestland in the bay.
"Working with our partners, including farmers, nonprofit and private organizations, local and state governments, and individuals, we are leveraging federal dollars to reduce nutrient and sediment losses.
"This would not be possible without the voluntary efforts of land owners and widespread public support," he said.
State awardees will combine the federal funds with a state match of 20% to conduct more environmental studies to expand eligible counties, improve outreach and educational efforts, and provide higher financial incentives to encourage more agricultural landowners to participate in the tree restoration efforts.
Since 1996, USDA has worked with the six bay states (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia) to establish more than 7,000 miles of stream and riverside trees, known as riparian forest buffers.
To date, about $500 million in USDA funds have been provided to farmers enrolling land in CREP projects. In 2013, the CREP projects prevented an estimated eight million tons of sediment, 16 million pounds of nitrogen, and four million pounds of phosphorus from entering the waters of the watershed.
More on the Chesapeake Bay clean-up story:
Chesapeake Bay regs would 'flood' Midwest farms
Chesapeake Bay water clean-up model: What Midwest farmers learned.
Chesapeake model: Who'll pay for Mississippi River's clean-up?