What does central and north-central Indiana have to do with the Mississippi River Basin? As far as NRCS is concerned, there is a strong connection. What happens in fields along watersheds far from the Mississippi eventually affects water quality in the Mississippi River. And NRCS has calculated that the Mississippi River is a critical ecosystem that equals 41% of the land area in the U.S.
Furthermore, NRCS calculates that the Mississippi River carries 436,000 tons of sediment to the Gulf of Mexico each day. That's equivalent to dumping 21,800 dump truck loads, 20 tons each, of dirt into the Mississippi at the Gulf each day. Yet you won't hear headlines on this one as you did when an obvious ecological disaster—the oil rig explosion and pumping of oil into the Gulf, occurred. To put it in perspective, that string of dump trucks would stretch for more than 80 miles—every day!
The MRBI is the NRCS effort to curb this ecological problem. In Indiana, the Greater Wabash River Resource Conservation & Development Council partnered with a host of SWCDs including Carroll, Clinton, Howard, Tipton and Tippecanoe, to apply for $2.25 million spread over three years.
Programs being used to help keep soil in place and prevent it from becoming dirt atop those string of mythical dump trucks include the Environmental Quality Incentive Program offered by NRCS, called EQIP, and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, called WHIP. Both are geared at helping individual farmers and landowners follow best management practices on lands so that runoff of soil and water will be reduced. In some areas, wildlife habitat is the best natural use for certain pieces of land.
In Clinton County alone, according to office staff, the extra MRBI funds helped them fund 16 applications for EQIP funds. Without the extra monies coming form the MRBI, they would have been able to fund only 8 applications. No wildlife habitat money was spent in 2010, partly due to the short promotion period for the program. There was $75,375 available in Clinton County alone for that particular program.
The take-home message is that you need to visit your local NRCS and Farm Service Agency offices so you know if new programs are being released, with new funds accompanying them. You may not know what type of cost-share money you qualify for until you visit your local offices and ask.