USDA Invests $ 21 Million to Help Producers Build Drought Resilience

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $ 21 million as part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s collaboration with the Home Office’s WaterSMART initiative to help farmers and ranchers conserve water and build resilience to drought in their communities. These investments complement the projects of irrigation districts, water providers and other organizations receiving WaterSMART program funds from the Office of Reclamation of the Home Office. NRCS works with reclamation to coordinate investments in the same community to accelerate water conservation and drought resilience and have greater impact where it is most needed.

“The consequences of the drought have continued to impact farms, ranches and communities in much of the West and other parts of the country,” said NRCS chief Terry Cosby. “Drought is a complex challenge, and our collaboration on WaterSMART is part of our strategic approach to help producers conserve water and build their resilience while bringing important partners to the table. Bringing together as many like-minded individuals and groups as possible to innovate together is our best solution for water management in the West.

“Reclamation’s collaboration with the NRCS maximizes each agency’s investment in tackling conservation and building resilience to drought in the West,” said DOI Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “Earlier this year, Reclamation awarded $ 42.4 million to 55 WaterSMART energy and water efficiency projects to support improvements on the ground to conserve water and build resilience to drought. Many of the projects announced by NRCS today will complement existing WaterSMART projects, maximizing the benefits of each agency’s conservation programs.



PRIORITY AREAS

In FY2022, the NRCS will invest in 15 new priority areas and 25 existing priority areas with continuing needs, supporting producers and communities in 13 western states. The NRCS provides the funding through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.



New WaterSmart priority areas

The 15 new priority areas include:

California (Funding amount: $ 1,160,000)

Eastern Municipal River Basin District (Riverside) area

McMullen Zone (Fresno)

Idaho (Funding amount: $ 3,417,000)

King Hill Irrigation District (Elmore)

East side of Preston (Franklin)

St. John East Side Sector (Oneida)

Twin Falls Service Area (Twin Falls)

Nevada (Funding amount: $ 500,000)

Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (Churchill)

New Mexico (Funding amount: $ 470,000)

Bloomfield Irrigation District (San Juan)

Fort Sumner (De Baca) Oklahoma Irrigation District (Funding Amount: $ 100,000)

Hanover Irrigation District Area (Johnston)

Utah (Funding amount: $ 1,500,000)

Litz North and South side (Cache)

Washington (Funding amount: $ 1,900,000)

Kittitas Reclamation District (Kittitas)

Whitestone Reclamation District (Okanogan)

Wyoming (Funding amount: $ 780,000)

Heart Mountain Irrigation District (Park)

Lovell Irrigation District (Big Horn)

In total, there are 46 active projects providing WaterSMART assistance. Visit the WaterSMART web page to learn more.

HOW WATERSMART WORKS

Private land managers such as farmers and pastoralists can leverage the money and resources of irrigation districts, river basin districts and other organizations empowered to distribute water in their community by coordinating their efforts to conserve and use water more efficiently; increase the production of renewable energy; mitigate future water conflicts in high risk areas; and other activities that contribute to the sustainability of the water supply in the western United States.

Through the WaterSMART Initiative, funds are allocated to targeted areas for eligible participants to contract. Each WaterSMART Initiative project area executes different phases of program delivery at the same time: funding, implementation and evaluation.

NRCS and Recovery, the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power, have been coordinating EQIP and WaterSMART investments since 2011, the effort started as a pilot in California.

This federal collaboration aims to provide states, tribes, local water management entities and water users with coordinated resources to plan and implement actions that balance water supply and demand by modernizing existing infrastructure, improving agricultural landscapes to conserve water resources and drawing attention to water-related conflicts.

In addition to helping growers build resilience, USDA is also helping drought-affected growers recover. Other recent actions include:

Invested $ 41.8 million in a pilot project in four states of conservation incentive contracts focused on drought practices.

Expand the emergency aid program for livestock, bees and farmed fish to cover food transportation costs.

Extend deadlines for crop insurance premiums and administrative costs, and defer accruing interest.

Streamline and accelerate losses and issue compensation for crop insurance.

Invested $ 15 million via block grant to the Klamath Drought Response Agency to provide payments to producers to reduce irrigation demand.

USDA is coordinating with federal agencies, state governments, tribes and others to deal with the impacts of drought. This includes a new interagency task force created in April by the Biden-Harris administration’s National Climate Task Force to address worsening drought conditions in the West and support farmers. USDA co-chairs the working group with the Home Office.


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