USDA Requests Public Input on Key Water Quality Initiatives
Online public comments encouraged before April 7th

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[March 17, 2023]     The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking for public input on two water quality conservation initiatives, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).

Through the Federal Register notice published today, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks feedback on how best to target program benefits, quantify impact, and improve program delivery and outreach in the future.

“In watersheds across the country, we have seen the benefits of targeting resources, working one-on-one with farmers and ranchers to voluntarily implement conservation practices that improve water quality and often have climate co-benefits” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “We’re proud of what the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative and the National Water Quality Initiative have accomplished, and we look forward to continuing to improve our efforts to ensure they provide the greatest impact for producers, communities and our nation’s waterways.”

Information gathered through the Federal Register notice will help inform NRCS efforts to identify and prioritize improvements to these initiatives starting in fiscal year 2024.

This is a 30-day public comment period. Public comments should be submitted through the Federal Register notice by April 7, 2023. Questions should be sent to SM.NRCS.Landscape .

More Information

Launched in 2009, the 12-state MRBI uses several Farm Bill programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), to help landowners sustain America’s natural resources through voluntary conservation. States within the Mississippi River Basin have developed nutrient reduction strategies to minimize the contributions of nitrogen and phosphorus to surface waters within the basin, and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

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MRBI uses a small watershed approach (HUC 12) to support the states’ reduction strategies. Avoiding, controlling, and trapping practices are implemented to reduce the amount of nutrients flowing from agricultural land into waterways and to improve the resiliency of working lands.

Over the past ten years, MRBI has helped farmers and ranchers:

Implement conservation on nearly 1.5 million acres.

Reduce sediment loss by more than 2.4 million tons.

Reduce phosphorous loss by more than 5.5 million pounds.

Reduce nitrogen loss by more than 20.2 million pounds.

NWQI was launched in 2012, and is a partnership among NRCS, state water quality agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify and address impaired water bodies through voluntary conservation. Through NWQI, NRCS provides targeted funding for financial and technical assistance to help farmers apply conservation practices to protect water resources.

Over the past ten years through NWQI, NRCS helped farmers and ranchers:

Reduce sediment loss by more than 1.1 million tons.

Reduce phosphorus loss by more than 3.1 million pounds.

Reduce nitrogen loss by more than 13.5 million pounds.

[Aaron Patrick
Public Affairs Specialist
USDA NRCS Illinois]


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