California Dairy Industry to Receive $17 Million for Water Quality Projects

July 30, 2009 07:00 PM

California's dairy industry will receive $17.3 million over the next three years -- $5.8 million during the first year alone – from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help meet water quality requirements, NRCS Chief Dave White announced yesterday.


NRCS will partner with Western United Dairymen (WUD), a California trade association, to seek applications and award monies to Central Valley dairies eligible for the water-quality funding.


The funding will help dairy producers with Waste Management Plans and water quality infrastructure improvements.


The new USDA-NRCS program making the funding is the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP). Authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, the funding will augment EQIP monies.


The AWEP funding will help California dairies "enhance conservation practices and improve and maintain water quality compliance,” said Michael Marsh, WUD's CEO. "The value to producers, who are struggling mightily . . . is just inestimable.”


A successful applicant will receive funds to hire and work with a California Registered Professional to prepare a Waste Management Plan for their dairy. Projects to improve manure management also will be eligible for funding.


Producers will be required to share 50% of the cost of a project. The AWEP monies should fund a total of about 600 water-quality projects, Marsh said. That includes 300 Waste Management Plans and 300 projects to retrofit and improve existing infrastructure systems on dairies.


The application period will be announced soon, Marsh said. The program's first-year funding begins Oct. 1, 2009, and ends Sept. 30, 2010.


California dairy applicants do not have to be members of WUD.


The AWEP funding totaled nearly $58 million for 63 projects in 21 states. The funds will be used for water conservation and water quality improvements on agricultural working lands. California received the lion's share of the AWEP funding, obtaining $18.1 million for 15 projects.


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Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at

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