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Farm Bill Program Helps Improve Water Quality in the Delaware River Watershed

Posted by Ann Mills, Deputy Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment in Conservation
Feb 21, 2017
Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills announces Farm Bill funding support to improve water quality in the Delaware River Basin. NRCS photo.
Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills announces Farm Bill funding support to improve water quality in the Delaware River Basin. NRCS photo.

The Delaware River watershed is one of our nation’s most treasured resources. It is home to more than 7 million people and the water supply for more than 15 million in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. An historic new Farm Bill program at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help farmers and local leaders make investments to keep the watershed healthy and vibrant for years to come.

Secretary Vilsack recently announced the recipients of the 2014 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awards.  This new program will invest $1.2 billion over five years in innovative, partner-driven strategies to protect air and water quality, make more efficient use of water resources, restore habitat and protect open spaces.  This year’s RCPP awards nation-wide total more than $370 million dollars. Counting the dollar-for-dollar partner match, almost three quarters of a billion dollars will be invested in private land conservation through the RCPP.

The first year of RCPP was extremely competitive with more than 600 initial proposals submitted.  Three Delaware River watershed proposals were among the 115 awardees, which is a testament to the strength of their partnerships and strategies. They will receive a total of $15.2 million to install conservation practices and acquire easements in northeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. The results will include cleaner water, healthier habitat for fish and wildlife, and preservation of working agricultural and forest lands.

I had the pleasure of traveling to Pennsylvania to deliver the good news to the three winners:  the Delaware River Watershed Working Lands Conservation and Protection Partnership ($13 million); Productive Farms and Clean Streams for Berks and Chester Counties ($1.5 million); and the Delaware Bay Soil and Water Quality Protection Initiative ($700,000).  These dollars will provide grants and easements and in-kind services such as outreach and technical assistance to producers for the installation of conservation and restoration practices that include filter strips, conservation buffers and cover crops. These efforts will reduce soil erosion and runoff of nutrients, improve forest health and control invasive species.

Their work will make a real difference to communities up and down a watershed that spans 330 miles from the Catskills to the Atlantic. Its forested, agricultural and urban landscapes provide recreation, fisheries, wildlife, energy, industry and navigation.  Roughly 1,000 community water systems rely on the watershed for drinking water.

By leveraging public and private investments, RCPP is changing the approach to conservation all across the country. These partnerships empower communities to set priorities and lead the way on conservation efforts important for their region.

RCPP is a great example of government working to support local priorities.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers RCPP, which directs funding to state-level and multi-state projects as well as projects in critical conservation areas.

Another round of funding will be announced later in the year. To learn more about the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and to see a list of this year’s projects, visit

Category/Topic: Conservation

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Jan 29, 2015

Thumbs up!

Alison Pryle
Jan 29, 2015

It's ironic you can brag about water quality while approving Monsanto's triple cocktail of poisons. Farmers have expressly asked this to be stopped. The burden of clean up is on them, including where to dispose of polluted water from triple washing. This is why organic soy is the only way to go and the best use of GMO corn is in ethanol.