The USDA is offering $8.4 million in financial assistance to help farmers implement sustainable practices that will improve water quality along the Mississippi River Basin.

Some of the 23 projects to be funded could include the use of no-till, cover crops, precision technology, terracing, grassed waterways, filter strips and other methods that will help farmers keep soil and nutrients from running off from farms.

The grants build on the USDA's previous actions through the Mississippi River Basic Initiative to create voluntary programs to clean up the Mississippi River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico.

The MRBI, first announced in September 2009, provides financial assistance in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

The 23 selected projects are located in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Selections were based on the potential for managing nitrogen and phosphorus — nutrients associated with water quality problems in the Basin — while maintaining agricultural productivity and benefiting wildlife. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) manages the initiative.

Below are examples of selected projects and the financial assistance available for their implementation in fiscal year 2012:

• Middle Cache River Project (Arkansas) - $222,900 to improve water quality, reduce sediment and enhance wildlife habitat in a watershed near the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. This project supports the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a commitment by federal, state, and local entities to preserve and protect the nation’s natural and cultural heritage.

• Upper Minnesota River Project (South Dakota) - $247,287 to improve water quality by helping landowners avoid, control and trap nutrient and sediment runoff from private and Tribal lands.

• Lindsey-Honey Creek Watershed Project (Iowa) - $329,000 to reduce nitrogen entering the Mississippi River from the Maquoketa River Basin. Sponsor: The Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District.

• Middle Fork of Salt River Watershed Project (Missouri) - $366,188 to improve and monitor water quality and agricultural productivity. Sponsor: Randolph County Soil and Water Conservation District.  

The projects are funded through NRCS’s Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI), which engages local partners to help provide outreach and technical assistance to agricultural producers. CCPI funds both new and existing projects each year.

Earlier this year, NRCS provided nearly $64 million in financial assistance through Farm Bill conservation programs to support the 95 existing MRBI projects first funded in 2010 and 2011.

Learn more about the CCPI and the MRBI at