Mississippi's designations under 2014 Farm Bill include portions of nine-state longleaf pine range, says US Sen. Cochran, expects reforms to support interstate efforts to increase longleaf pine acreage to 8.4 million acres from 3.4 million acres by 2025

WASHINGTON , May 27, 2014 (press release) – 2014 Farm Bill Conservation Reforms Will Benefit Mississippi as USDA Announces Critical Conservation Areas

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today encouraged Mississippi to actively participate in two new conservation partnerships to ensure the long-term viability of the Mississippi River and the long leaf pine forests to the state.

Large portions of Mississippi are included in two of the eight Critical Conservation Areas (CCA) authorized under the 2014 farm bill as part of a significant reform of U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation areas. Mississippi is part of a 13-state Mississippi River Basin CCA and the Longleaf Pine Range CCA that sweeps across nine states from the Atlantic Coast to East Texas.

“The new Regional Conservation Partnership Program will create opportunities for Mississippi agriculture producers, conservationists and other partners to work on a cooperative basis to safeguard the natural resources that are important to our state’s environment and an economy that benefits from strong agriculture and timber sectors, as well as hunting, fishing and recreation,” Cochran said.

“I am hopeful that the agriculture, conservation and other private interests in Mississippi will actively participate in this program,” he said.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) was created through the consolidation of 23 conservation programs into 13 reformed programs, saving more than $6.0 billion over 10 years. The RCPP will make resources available through three competitive funding pools of which 35 percent of total program funding will be reserved for the eight CCAs to support collaborative conservation projects with federal, state and private partners. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will allot $400 million in the first year of this five-year program.

“Designating the Mississippi River Basin and the Longleaf Pine Range as Critical Conservation Areas will allow Mississippi and partners states to build upon existing regional partnerships,” Cochran noted. “The 2014 farm bill reformed conservation programs to provide agricultural producers and landowners with the better tools to address soil health, water quality and quantity, and wildlife habit on a watershed scale while also supporting a diverse regional economy.”

The overall goal of the Mississippi River Basin CCA is to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads entering the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. The long-range goal of the Longleaf Pine CCA is improve longleaf pine ecosystems, enhance water quality and increase the longleaf pine acreage goal from 3.4 to 8 million acres by 2025.

At a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing in March, Cochran promoted the inclusion of the Lower Mississippi River Valley in one of the eight CCAs.

LINKS:

• USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program announcement: http://1.usa.gov/1kcuANa
• Mississippi River Basin Critical Conservation Area: http://1.usa.gov/1gy2DV0
• Longleaf Pine Critical Conservation Area: http://1.usa.gov/1oGgBof
• Mississippi Association of Conservation Districts: http://bit.ly/1o1x7C2

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