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May 08, 2014

Julie B. Yates, NRCS

USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett recently announced a sign-up for theGulf of Mexico Initiative (GoMI). The initiative is designed to help farmers in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas improve water quality and ensure sustainable production of food and fiber.

The Alabama priority watersheds include the Weeks Bay (Upper Fish River, Middle Fish River, and Lower Fish River) in Baldwin County and the Escambia River (Canoe Creek and Pine Barren Creek–Sandy Hollow) in Escambia County, Alabama. 

Financial assistance is available to help producers apply sustainable agricultural and wildlife habitat management systems that will focus on reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, and improving wildlife habitat on cropland, pastureland, and hayland.  Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis; however applications for 2014 funding must be received by May 16. 

Some of the conservation practices include:

Installing grade control structures to stabilize eroding gullies
Implementing precision agriculture to reduce chemical application overlap and protect sensitive environmental areas
Increasing adoption of residue and tillage management, cover crops, and conservation crop rotations to reduce sheet and rill erosion and improve soil organic matter, which will result in cleaner runoff and improved water quality
Planting grass and trees to stabilize eroding areas
Installing cross-fences and watering facilities to facilitate grazing distribution
Controlling cattle access to streams to improve water quality and streambank stability
Planting and managing native plant species to improve wildlife habitat and to assist with restoration of a multitude of declining species

NRCS programs supporting GoMI are the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (Wetlands Reserve Easement Component) and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

“We are excited to be a part of this locally-led effort to improve the health of the Gulf Coast Region,”  Puckett said.  “Alabama citizens will benefit by enjoying clean waterways, safe drinking water, and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.”

Interested landowners are encouraged to visit the Alabama NRCS website at to view maps of the announced watersheds. For more information about signing up, contact your local NRCS office. Offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or online at 

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