EPA awards $1 million for Mississippi cover crop/minimum-till demos

EPA delta FARM check presentation
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (center) presents checks totaling $2 million to improve water quality and crop production in the Mississippi River Basin. From left, Pruitt is joined by EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford, Iowa Department of Ag & Land Stewardship Water Quality Initiative Coordinator Matt Lechtenberg, EPA Region 4 Administrator Trey Glenn and Delta F.A.R.M. Chairman Dan Branton.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt joined more than 50 Mississippi farmers and landowners recently to announce two Gulf of Mexico Program grants totaling $2 million. He also toured Big River Farms and discussed pollinator health and water quality, according to a news release.

“This funding will empower those on the ground in the states to improve water quality and crop production in the Mississippi River Basin,” Pruitt said in the release. “EPA is committed to working cooperatively with our state and local partners to support American agriculture and protect our vital water resources.”

Joined by EPA Region 4 Administrator Trey Glenn, he presented the B.F. Smith Foundation and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship with grants of $1 million each. They will go toward demonstrating innovative monitoring systems that measure and report field-scale water and nutrient dynamics to farmers to help them make informed crop-management decisions. The projects also take a multi-stakeholder approach to improve surface waters in Iowa and ultimately the Mississippi River Basin.

Following the announcement, Pruitt and members of the Mississippi agriculture community toured Big River Farms in Bobo, Mississippi. During a stop at a soybean field, they discussed a variety of pollinator issues and area water quality projects and the impacts they have on agricultural systems.

“Mississippi’s farmers rely upon the latest technology and research to improve their production processes, lower prices for consumers, and stay competitive in a global market,” says Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi. “These grants from the Environmental Protection Agency will help the B.F. Smith Foundation, Delta Council and others develop farming methods that will improve water quality and increase profitability for hundreds of farmers in the Mississippi Delta.”

The Clean Water Act provides authority and resources essential to protecting water quality in the Gulf of Mexico and larger Mississippi River Basin. EPA’s regional offices and the Gulf of Mexico Program work with states to continue to maximize the efficiency and utility of water quality monitoring efforts by coordinating and standardizing state and federal water quality data collection activities in the Gulf region.

The B.F. Smith Foundation was awarded a grant for the Yazoo River Basin project. The project will demonstrate a successful cover crop/minimum tillage production system and evaluate its agronomic, economic and environmental benefits.

This project will provide data that demonstrates more than a 5 percent  reductions in sediment, nitrogen or phosphorous through the implementation of cover crop/minimal tillage systems on a minimum of 15 farms and 800 acres annually.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship was awarded a grant for the Iowa Transforming Drainage Demonstration project. It will advance knowledge and implementation of alternative drainage systems in the Des Moines River Basin to improve downstream water quality while also improving crop production and yield stability, sustainably secure and manage irrigation water, and enhance wildlife habitat.

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