|Washington, D.C., July 7, 2010 —“American Farmland Trust (AFT) is embarking on a strategic, three-year project to reduce nutrient runoff in the Upper Salt Fork watershed, and engage agriculture leaders and groups to leverage the work throughout the state,” says Anita Zurbrugg, co-director for AFT’s Center for Agriculture in the Environment in DeKalb, Illinois. “We hope to achieve between 10-20 percent reductions in nutrient runoff on participating farms in Champaign County, and create a plan to scale-up this approach to the state and basin levels.”
AFT has been awarded just over $750,000 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) to support work on the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), beginning in FY2011. AFT has consulted with key stakeholders from across Illinois, will use a strategic partnership and AFT’s Best Management Practices Challenge to reduce nutrient runoff.
“The grant will allow us to direct funds to producers to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices that reduce nutrient runoff while maintaining crop yields” adds Zurbrugg. “We’ll also be looking at the environmental benefits that can be provided when farmers adopt advanced nutrient management practices, including shifting from predominantly fall to spring fertilizer applications and side dressing fertilizer.”
A primary partner with whom AFT will be working is the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District. “The Mississippi River Basin Initiative provides an opportunity for us to focus our efforts on a watershed to work with producers helping them adopt water quality improving practices on their farms,” says Bruce Stikkers, resource conservationist with the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District. “This effort brings the added dimension of agricultural industry personnel as advisors to enhance the adoption of these conservation practices in the whole Mississippi River Basin. And, we’ll be able to actually measure the effectiveness of these practices through the field monitoring.”
“Water quality issues and concerns have been around for quite a while. This project will help us highlight some of the practical conservation practices which maintain and improve water quality but remain practical to the farmers and address their resource concerns,” adds Kevin Donoho, USDA/NRCS district conservationist, Champaign, IL. “This is a great opportunity to make a positive impact on water quality in the Mississippi River Basin.”
Donoho notes the strong federal commitment to conservation of natural resources through the NRCS and says “I believe this type of commitment is in the hearts and minds of all private landowners, farmers and those who make natural resource conservation decisions. With the support and commitment of USDA agencies, partners and related groups, the dreams of those people who live and work with the land, can be realized through projects like this.”
American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT’s national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.