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Over $1.5 million provided to improve Illinois water quality

American Farmland Trust Partners with Natural Resources Conservation Service

American Farmland Trust is partnering with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide over $1.5 million to improve water quality in two Illinois watersheds.

The funds are from the NRCS landscape-level water quality effort, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). The available funds will benefit projects and efforts in the Upper Macoupin Creek (UMC) and Vermilion Headwaters Watershed (VHW), which are both priority watersheds.

“The MRBI funding provides NRCS technical assistance and financial incentives to farmers and landowners who voluntarily adopt several conservation practices including cover crops and no-till/strip-till that will ultimately reduce the amount of nutrients being lost from agricultural lands in the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed and Vermilion Headwaters in Illinois,” says Kris Reynolds, AFT Midwest deputy director.

A 25% reduction in total phosphorus loads and 15% reduction in nitrate-N loads is needed by 2025 to meet the water quality goals identified in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS).

Cover crops, no-till and strip till, nutrient management, constructed wetlands, reduced tillage and buffers are just a few of the practices that reduce nutrient loss and are eligible for program funding.

“The need to move the needle on production agriculture’s contribution to our nation’s water quality grows stronger every day,” said Ivan Dozier, state conservationist for Illinois NRCS. “The same is true for changes we’re seeing toward building healthy and resilient soils. NRCS funding and technical support that’s available through MRBI offers farmers in these watersheds a powerful way to learn how to make those critical changes and customize it for their operation, their land, and their soils.” 

Over the next four years, NRCS will work with AFT and local partners to prioritize the implementation of practices that address nutrients of concern in each watershed area.

  • $606,652 will be invested in practices to reduce phosphorus loss in Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed
  • $980,856 will be invested in practices to reduce nitrate loss in Vermilion Headwaters Watershed

By joining in voluntary conservation efforts, farmers in these watersheds can help protect water quality while maintaining or improving farm profitability. The adoption of a well-managed conservation cropping system leads to improved soil health and less erosion, better drainage with more moisture when you need it, and reduced fuel and fertilizer costs.

Individuals interested in applying for funding should contact their local NRCS office before May 1, 2020.

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