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Hawkeye State benefits from USDA initiative

By Staff | Feb 13, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced more than $370 million in funding for what it characterizes as “100 high-impact projects” as part of its Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

Unlike some top-down federal initiatives, the RCPP effort has been designed to be a genuine public-private sector partnership. The goal is to involve private companies, local communities and other nongovernmental entities in innovative initiatives that promote land resiliency, clean water and economic growth.

Two of the newly funded efforts are in the Hawkeye State.

One is the Iowa Targeted Demonstration Watersheds Partnership Project. It will receive $3.5 million. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, those funds augment the department’s own contributions to the watersheds efforts and those of the 20 project partners.

“The projects will focus on the adoption of conservation practices that are most beneficial to reducing nutrient loading in up to nine watersheds,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey in a statement released last month. “This effort is tied directly to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and will serve as models for future work and focus on farmer-to-farmer outreach and education.”

According to IDALS, these demonstration projects in key watersheds conduct outreach and assist farmers in implementing conservation practices.

The second Iowa undertaking chosen for RCPP support is the Cedar Rapids-based Middle Cedar Partnership Project. It will receive $2 million to assist in promoting optimal land-management practices.

“RCPP puts our partners in the driver’s seat,” said Jay Mar, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Des Moines, in a statement released in January about the awards. “Projects are led locally, and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to tough natural resource challenges.”

Farm News applauds this USDA initiative. The focus on innovative efforts that are locally conceived and led is the right approach. It is a refreshing departure from the Washington-knows-best mindset that is so typical of federal programs.

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