“These funds will help farmers and ranchers improve areas impacted by drought by employing sound conservation practices,” said Veneman. “The USDA Drought Coordinating Council continues to monitor drought conditions to determine how resources can best be provided to those affected.”

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide the funding through the Ground and Surface Water Conservation (GSWC) provision of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), authorized in the 2002 farm bill.

States that receive these funds will provide cost-share and incentive payments to producers who undertake eligible water conservation activities, including irrigation improvements, conversion to less water intensive crops and dryland farming

Though irrigated land can be found in all states, most of the irrigated acreage is concentrated in the West where the drought has hit the hardest. Because of chronic water supply problems in the West, federal financial and technical resources are being concentrated in key western watersheds, the secretary said.

In addition to the Klamath River Basin area of Oregon and California that has suffered from water shortages over the past several years, the High Plains Aquifer region also is a high priority for water conservation and water reduction activities.

The following states will receive GSWC assistance in these amounts: Arizona, $2.01 million; California, $11.63 million; Colorado, $4.36 million; Idaho, $4.46 million; Kansas, $4.13 million; Montana, $2.4 million; Nebraska, $5.61 million; Nevada, $.77 million; New Mexico, $1.32 million; North Dakota, $.11 million; Oklahoma, $.96 million; Oregon, $2.14 million; South Dakota, $.5 million; Texas, $7.08 million; Utah, $1.24 million; Washington, $2.09 million; and Wyoming, $2.18 million.

Funding is based on irrigated acres, surface water withdrawal in million gallons per day and groundwater withdrawal in million gallons per day, according to the secretary. Conservation measures implemented must result in a net savings in groundwater or surface water resources in the agricultural operation of the producer.

Net savings means a producer implements water conservation activities such as enhanced irrigation efficiencies, improved water storage measures or dryland farming.

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that promotes environmental quality and assists producers to meet local, state and federal regulations. EQIP funds help farmers and ranchers reduce soil erosion, improve water use efficiencies and protect grazing land by installing conservation practices that protect natural resources. EQIP funds nationwide can be used for water conservation purposes and to provide flexibility in addressing an array of environmental concerns.

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