Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White announced Thursday that 15 organizations in California will receive funding from a new program under the 2008 Farm Bill that will help improve water quality and quantity. The money is being made available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP).
"AWEP is a voluntary conservation initiative that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to improve water conditions on their agricultural land," said White in a conference call with reporters. Nationwide, nearly $58 million will be used to fund 63 AWEP projects in 21 states.
AWEP is a newly-established part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a program administered by NRCS. The difference in AWEP projects is that applications for project funding are made directly to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from an organization on behalf of a group of agricultural producers who intend to make water improvements in a geographic area.
"This is welcome news to the 15 conservation, irrigation, and tribal partners who are working on these projects to help manage California’s priceless water resources," said Gayle Norman, Acting NRCS State Conservationist in California.
Applications from individual agricultural producers within a given AWEP project area are ranked according to the conservation resource need. Producers whose applications are selected enter into individual contracts with NRCS.
The projects ranged from $120,187 to improve the irrigation efficiency of 30 processing tomato growers on 12,000 acres, to $5.8 million for a Western United Dairymen project to improve wastewater utilization.