New grant program will fund water trading credits

Jan 20, 2012

USDA is giving a boost to efforts to pay farmers for improving water quality through private trading markets with $10 million set aside for special grants for such projects.

USDA is offering grants to farmers for improving water quality.

In making the announcement, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) officials noted this was the first time US- DA has offered funding specifically for water-quality trading programs. The program offers Conservation Innovation Grants of up to $2 million for an individual project. Further, half of the $10 million pot set aside for the grants is dedicated to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“Our goal is to build these markets as cost-effective tools to improve water quality in places like the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Harris Sherman, USDA undersecretary of natural resources.

“Agricultural producers are critical to the functioning of these markets.”

Water-quality trading is a relatively new concept, but is used in a variety of ways. Farmers in Oregon are paid to grow trees along rivers where salmon migrate to help lower the water temperature. In areas such as Ohio, farmers receive funds to fence off cattle or improve dairy manure management to help reduce nitrogen in streams so upstream businesses can expand their facilities that may release more effluent into those streams.

The grants are competitive and also would require a 50 percent match from non-federal government entities or businesses. Further, projects must involve farmers or livestock producers who are eligible for the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The grant application deadline is March 2. NRCS also will host a webinar at 3 p.m. eastern time on Jan. 24 for prospective applicants. For more webinar details, please go to http:// — Chris Clayton, DTN