Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner has announced that USDA is awarding more than $1 million to two land-grant universities to improve management understanding of the widespread benefits of agricultural conservation.
"These two studies culminate the first phase of USDA's work to understand the effects of conservation practices benefiting a watershed," Conner said. "This science and outreach will provide additional practical knowledge for planning and carrying out conservation programs across the nation."
A team of investigators led by North Carolina State University (NCSU) will conduct the principal Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) synthesis. This team will develop a comprehensive framework to evaluate 13 previously funded watershed projects to better understand the influence of conservation practices and maintenance.
A second team, led by the University of Idaho, will characterize these 13 CEAP watersheds for their benefit to the land as well as to the results of those benefits to the surrounding communities.
NCSU and the University of Idaho received $600,000 and $420,328 for their project, respectively.
The two grants are part of USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service's (CSREES) commitment to the Conservation Effects Assessment Project.
CEAP's goal is to quantify the environmental benefits and effects of 2002 farm bill programs: Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Security Program and Conservation Technical Assistance.
CEAP consists of two components, the national assessment and the watershed-level assessment. The national assessment, tracks environmental benefits that allow for a direct comparison between benefits obtained and program expenditures. The watershed-level assessments conduct more detailed evaluations for improving how watersheds are viewed and valued.
USDA's CSREES and Natural Resources Conservation Service have jointly funded 13 CEAP watershed studies totaling $7.8 million dollars over the past three years. Additional information on CEAP, including other CSREES competitively awarded watershed studies, is available at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/NRI/ceap/ .