U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, is calling on the federal government to give the Mississippi River a special conservation designation that could give agricultural projects in Wisconsin an economic boost.
The latest Farm Bill created the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which consolidates existing programs and allows U.S. Department of Agriculture to create eight critical conservation areas. Kind, along with Rep. Tim Walz, DFL-Minn., wants the Mississippi River basin to receive the designation.
Kind says the Mississippi River is often overlooked, and that if it becomes a critical conservation area, it could give projects aimed at protecting wetlands and farmland higher national funding priority.
“Because of the inadequacy of resources and the lack of funding at a sufficient level, three out of every four farmers applying for conservation funding assistance are turned away,” Kind said. “So the demand is there. The results are there.”
Tom Krapf, an assistant state conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Service Wisconsin, says more information on how farmers and groups can apply should be released soon. The funding can go towards wetland management, flood control, or erosion prevention.
“For instance, you may have a watershed where you’re working with surface water quality – dealing with nutrients,” Krapf said. “Partners working within that watershed could apply to this program.”