Posted September 11, 2013
A new report released by USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) shows significant reductions in the loss of sediment and nutrients from farm fields through voluntary conservation practices in the lower Mississippi River basin, according to a news release by USDA, available here.  The report is available here
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack highlighted the value of conservation programs, and called on Congress to pass a comprehensive farm bill that would “enable USDA to continue supporting conservation work on farms and ranches.”
The report marks the completion of an assessment of conservation efforts in the Mississippi River watershed.  The findings show that “conservation work, like controlling erosion and managing nutrients, has reduced the edge-of-field losses of sediment by 35 percent, nitrogen by 21 percent and phosphorus by 52 percent.”
The report is part of USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), which uses advanced modeling techniques to assess the effects of conservation practices.  The lower Mississippi report covers cropland in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. 
Similar assessments in recent years were completed in the upper Mississippi River, Tennessee-Ohio, Missouri and Arkansas-Red-White basins.  The assessments in the project as a whole have shown: “Conservation on cropland prevents an estimated 243 million tons of sediment, 2.1 billion pounds of nitrogen and 375 million pounds of phosphorus from leaving fields each year.”  These figures translate to a “55 percent, 34 percent and 46 percent reduction in sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus edge-of-field losses, respectively,” compared to losses if no conservation practices were in place.  Information on these assessments is available here.
For more information on conservation programs, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website, here.