Jill Reinhart discusses a new water conservation program at a meeting in West Lafayette, Ind. The program will combine efforts to improve Indiana’s air and water.
Jill Reinhart discusses a new water conservation program at a meeting in West Lafayette, Ind. The program will combine efforts to improve Indiana’s air and water.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Water and soil quality are the foundation for not just a healthy farm, but a healthy community.

Meetings recently were held across the state to explain a new conservation program focusing on public-private partnerships.

“Today we went over the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the guidelines for the program and everything involved in applying for the project,” said Jill Reinhart, assistant state conservationist.

Authorized by the recent farm bill, the program combines four programs into one, making conservation efforts more streamlined.

Harold Thompson, a retired area conservationist at Natural Resources Conservation Service, attended the event to learn more about the funding.

“What I took out of this meeting was a chance to enhance methods of improving water and soil quality,” he said.

“I think it’s a way to supplement our current programs, and the fact we can target funds to a particular watershed or project is great. It also cuts down the competition when you’re competing nationally through a ranking process.”

In Indiana, it was decided that water quality, soil quality and at risk-species habitats were the main areas on which to focus.

The program’s dollars are targeted at geographic areas based on resource concerns.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has said two areas in Indiana are in critical need of help: The Great Lakes Region and the Mississippi River Basin area.

People should be concerned because sediment is the leading pollutant of our streams, Thompson said.

“There’s a direct correlation between soil quality and water quality,” he said. “Water quality is not always distinguished by county boundaries, so this (program) gives us more of a regional approach.

“I think a lot of our local communities and ag producers lack funds to put practices in to action. If we can cut costs at a reasonable rate, it’s a win-win. Society benefits from better water quality and less runoff.”

Soils on a tillage and cover crop system soak up water like a sponge, preventing it from running into streams.

The end result is improved soil and water quality, Thompson said.

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.