The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has announced a $250,000 Recovery Act grant to the Southern Middle Tennessee Resource Conservation and Development District to help farmers in five watersheds install conservation practices that improve water quality.

“These funds will go a long way in helping farmers in priority areas restore and protect rivers and streams from runoff and sedimentation that affect water quality,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “I’m pleased the Department of Agriculture is partnering with local conservation organizations to help identify worthy projects and distribute funding.”

The Recovery Act funds are being provided by the U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service to help fund conservation projects in watersheds that have experienced a significant decline in both the diversity and density of aquatic life. The watersheds include the Elk River, Upper Duck River, Caney Fork River (above Center Hill Dam), Cypress Creek and Shoal Creek and cover all or portions of the following counties:

Bedford, Bledsoe, Cannon, Coffee, Cumberland, DeKalb, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Lawrence, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Putnam, Sequatchie, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne, White and Williamson.

“This program complements work we’re already doing at the state and local level to address conservation and water quality issues on the farm. When farmers are able to maintain their land and improve water quality, we all benefit,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens.

Farmers in these watersheds are eligible to apply for up to 90 percent of the cost of projects such as fencing livestock out of streams, installing alternative livestock watering systems, planting native grasses and stabilizing streambanks. To be eligible, farmers must agree to maintain the conservation practice for a minimum of 10 years.

Farmers in these areas can apply through their county Soil Conservation District through Jan. 8, 2010. Applications will be approved by Feb. 5 and projects should be completed by Dec. 31, 2010.

For more information, contact your local Soil Conservation District listed in the phone directory under county government or TDA Water Resources administrator John McClurkan at 615-837-5305, or e-mail John.McClurkan@TN.gov. For more information on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, visit www.tnrecovery.gov.