Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $100 million in financial assistance to acquire permanent easements from eligible landowners in four counties and assist with wetland restoration on nearly 24,000 acres of agricultural land in the Northern Everglades Watershed.

Local leaders lauded USDA efforts to protect the Northern Everglades and reiterated their commitment to the continued restoration and economic opportunities made possible by the Wetlands Reserve Program from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS):

Bill Nelson, United States Senator

"This is a win-win that helps restore the Northern Everglades while allowing Florida ranching traditions to continue.”

John Hoblick, president, Florida Farm Bureau

“Conservation programs provided by NRCS are invaluable and production agriculture stands ready to do its part to maintain green space, wildlife habitat and freshwater recharge areas. The farmer's and rancher’s role has never been more important.”

Alcee L. Hastings, United States Representative (FL- 23)

“I would like to thank Secretary Vilsack and the USDA for providing the state with much-needed funds for the Wetlands Reserve Program. Since the Everglades are the source of a majority of our fresh drinking water, preserving and restoring this national treasure is vital both for the wildlife calling the River of Grass home and also for our own good.

“This latest drought we’ve experienced demonstrates how crucial a reliable supply of clean drinking water is for Florida. Unless we address our water infrastructure problems soon, water shortages will become a larger crisis for the State. With this funding, it is my sincere hope that we can better address the water infrastructure problems to ensure Florida has a stable supply of clean water.”

Keith Fountain, Florida protection director, The Nature Conservancy  

"Protecting and restoring the vast natural landscapes in the Northern Everglades will pay huge benefits in the future for all of us.