Seeing EPA funds helping the Mississippi River

Last month, as part of the Hypoxia Task Force Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, I visited a farm in the Mississippi River Delta area, and more specifically in the Critical Groundwater Area of the Bayou Meto Watershed.  I am honored to co-chair the Hypoxia Task Force and meet with my fellow members throughout the Basin, and these personal visits with the people managing the land in the Basin are always a highlight.

Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner meets with farmers in Arkansas.

Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner meets with farmers in Arkansas.

We know that nonpoint source nutrient pollution from fertilizers in the Mississippi River Basin is the most significant threat to water quality in the region and to the Gulf of Mexico. The Arkansas Discovery Farms Program helps many stakeholders make informed decisions about the sustainable future of their farms.  I am delighted to note that the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission has provided EPA Nonpoint Source Program Section 319 funds to the Arkansas Discovery Farm Program – this is just one example of these funds supporting local watershed work across the country.  During my visit, Drs. Mike Daniels and Andrew Sharpley of the University of Arkansas described the Arkansas Discovery Farms Program and how they work with eight participating farms in Arkansas.

I visited with Terry Dabbs on his farm where he manages about 1,500 acres of rice, soybean, and corn.  He and his son recently applied to be a century farm, as the farm has been in their family for over 100 years.  Mr. Dabbs volunteered his farm operation to be a part of the Discovery Farms Program and for it to be monitored and studied, helping agriculture’s role in water quality be better understood by the entire watershed.  The information gathered on the Dabbs farm will help the agricultural academic community and farmers of the future.

Mr. Dabbs focuses on managing water to minimize the nutrients that may leave his land. The data collected on his farm is used not only by environmental and natural resource agencies to improve their program delivery but also by farmers themselves to improve performance and to show that yield improvement and environmental improvement can go hand-in-hand.  During my visit to Mr. Dabbs’ farm, he showed us, not surprisingly, that through drainage water management the amount of fertilizer he needs to apply can be reduced and the amount of nutrients leaving the farm through surface waters can be reduced as well.

I’m happy to see the benefits of the partnerships the 319 program supports reaching this area in Arkansas, where there is interest by many agencies, agribusinesses, and farmers to work together to show the multiple benefits to managing the water in the landscape.

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