Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA will be sending $84.8 million to state and local governments to improve water quality, increase water supply, decrease soil erosion, and improve fish and wildlife habitat in rural communities as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Five of the six major rice-producing states will receive funding for projects, including Arkansas, California, Louisiana and Missouri and Texas.

ARRA funds will be used to develop conservation measures such as:

• planting vegetative cover and creating shallow water ponds to improve wildlife habitat

• improving irrigation efficiency and conserving water

• installing filter strips and soil erosion control practices

• flood-proofing homes and enhancing stream corridor and floodplain function

• constructing small flood control dams

Other major benefits include improved community safety and health, flood mitigation, sediment control, and enhanced fish and wildlife habitat.

USDA is directing technical and financial assistance available through this funding toward projects that are ready to begin and that will relieve stress on local economies through the creation of over 1,400 jobs.