Famers and landowners in 12 states in the Upper Mississippi River Basin can apply for some of the $30 million for 76 conservation projects that limit soil erosion and nutrient runoff from farms and improve wildlife habitat, the USDA has announced.

“The USDA is working aggressively to improve the health of the Mississippi River Basin,” Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary says.

The money will be available during the federal government's fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, 2010, and will help farmers and landowners implement conservation practices that control soil erosion, improve soil quality and provide wildlife habitat, Vilsack says.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide technical assistance and $30 million for projects in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

More than $22 million will be administered through the Conservation Stewardship, the Environmental Quality Incentive and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive programs.

Nearly $8 million will be provided in Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) money. Partner organizations will contribute additional financial resources.

The USDA says the basin initiative will help NRCS and its partners expand their capacity to improve water quality.

The NRCS will use a systems' approach to manage nitrogen and phosphorous, which will minimize runoff and reduce down-stream nutrient loading. The WREP will encourage strategic placement of wetland restoration projects.

The 76 multiyear watershed projects were selected through a competitive process. The list of the projects by state and additional information about the MRBI are available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi_overview.html.