Meeker County Soil and Water Conservation District is one of 20 in Minnesota set to benefit from federal funding aimed at stoking interest in innovative conservation projects on irrigated land.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and project partners $3.5 million through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and it will fund a five-year project that is focused on 20 counties across the state of Minnesota.

“We are grateful for this funding from NRCS,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. “Irrigation is critical for many of our farmers, and this money will allow us to work with producers and our partners to enhance conservation measures on the land that will ultimately benefit our water resources.”

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnership working at its best,” said Terry Cosby, Acting Chief for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “These new projects will harness the power of partnership to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.”

Through the RCPP, conservation partners like the Minnesota Department of Agriculture work with NRCS and soil and water conservation districts to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners throughout the nation to implement systems that conserve water and soil resources, improve the health of wildlife habitats, and increase climate resilience.

The MDA project, “Implementing Innovative Irrigation Practices to Protect Groundwater Quality and Quantity,” will work directly with agricultural producers using irrigation to implement conservation practices that protect groundwater and promote expanded precision irrigation practices. The MDA has partnered with SWCDs, educational institutions like Central Lakes College and the University of Minnesota, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, irrigation associations, and other public and private organizations to implement the project.

The 20 Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the project area are: Becker, Benton, Cass, Dakota, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Pope, Sherburne, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Wadena, and Washington.

The irrigation project is one of 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships receiving more than $330 million as part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.