Some $50 million will be spent over 3 years to offer conservation assistance to farmers and ranchers in priority areas along seven major rivers in five states that drain into the Gulf of Mexico.
The practices enacted could include precision, technology, reduced tillage and cover crops as federal and local officials attempt to rehabilitate land damaged by the 2010 oil-spill disaster in the Gulf.
Financial assistance is available to help producers apply sustainable agricultural and wildlife habitat management systems that will focus on reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, and improving wildlife habitat on cropland, pastureland, and forestland.
Practices may include:
- Installing grade-control structures to stabilize eroding gullies
- Implementing precision agriculture to reduce chemical application overlap and protect sensitive environmental areas
- Increasing adoption of residue and tillage management, cover crops, and conservation crop rotations to reduce sheet and rill erosion and improve soil organic matter, which will result in cleaner runoff and improved water quality
- Planting grass and trees to stabilize eroding areas
- Installing cross-fences and watering facilities to facilitate grazing distribution
- Controlling cattle access to streams to improve water quality and stream bank stability
- Planting and managing native plant species to improve wildlife habitat and to assist with restoration of a multitude of declining species
- Promoting energy conservation by eliminating the need for annual mechanical removal of sediment from split ditches
- Implementing grazing management
- Installing heavy-use area protection pads
The $50 million Gulf Coast restoration initiative was announced by the Obama administration. According to the Associated Press, the USDA committed $50 million to help restore seven river basins from Florida to Texas that were ecologically impacted, in part, due to the BP oil spill in April 2010.
The announcement came as part of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force issued its final report on the condition and steps still needing to be taken regarding the Gulf region.
The task force included plans for restoring ecosystems, watersheds and wetlands, as well as continuing to clean up polluted bodies of water. The USDA's funding, which establishes the Gulf of Mexico Initiative, requires matching funds from states, local organizations and nonprofits.