USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to commit up to $35 million during the next three years to help landowners conserve grasslands and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region, which includes north central Iowa. (See Map)

Prairie Pothole farmers in Iowa have until March 21 to sign up for the project in their local NRCS office to receive priority funding.

A combination of program offerings and partnerships will provide farmers access to a mix of technical and financial assistance opportunities to restore wetlands and grasslands and help mitigate a recent regional trend of conversion of these lands to crops.

"This region, which includes much of north central Iowa, provides critical breeding and nesting habitat for more than 60 percent of the nation’s migratory waterfowl," Iowa State Conservationist Jay Mar said of this important region.

The region provides vital water storage to reduce flooding and improve water quality, and it has tremendous potential to store carbon in soils and biomass, which reduces the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, one of the leading greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

The funding comes in a couple of pieces, including:

*Environmental Quality Incentives Program: The agency’s largest conservation program will help producers with expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts keep their lands as working grasslands or haylands through implementation of prescribed grazing and other conservation practices.

*NRCS also is providing additional technical assistance to complete certified wetland determinations, needed by producers to meet conservation compliance requirements first put in place in 1985.

For more information on these opportunities, visit a local NRCS field office or the NRCS website.