Environmental Protection

USDA Awards More Than $5M in Grants

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced March 3 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding $5.2 million in grants to 14 universities and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct research into improving and maintaining healthy watershed habitat and water supplies.

"Developing science-based information on water quality issues is critical for America's producers and consumers," Schafer said. "These grants will help us understand the sources and work of microorganisms in water used in agricultural production, which is critical to maintaining a safe food supply."

The awards are administered by USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service through the National Research Initiative Water and Watershed competitive grants program. The program seeks to reduce pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, in waters derived from agricultural and rural watersheds, as well as maintain adequate water supplies for agricultural crop and livestock production and rural use. In the past five years, the program has awarded more than $23 million in grants.

Funded projects include research to identify relationships between land management and the introduction of microbial pollutants into highly impaired watersheds at Ohio State University. Research at University of Vermont will investigate how pathogenic bacteria, in particular the ones that can swim, travel through the ground and in irrigation pipes. Cornell University researchers will study how roadside ditches act as a rapid conduit for pathogens, nutrients, and other contaminants from agricultural lands to downstream drinking water reservoirs.

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