Governor Phil Bredesen and Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens have announced more than $3 million in cost-share grants to 95 county soil conservation districts to help improve farmland and water quality.

“I’m proud that we’ve been able to fully restore funding for soil conservation and water quality improvement projects,” said Governor Bredesen. “By partnering with local soil conservation districts, Tennessee landowners can have a tremendous impact on water quality by preventing farm runoff. This is an important investment that benefits everyone.”

The grants are funded through the Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund and the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program to help landowners install conservation practices that prevent soil erosion and farm runoff and improve water quality. The grants also help support soil conservation districts with administrative costs, educational projects and technical assistance.

“This program has been very successful and a critical part of helping farmers and other landowners care for the land,” said Givens. “We’re proud to work with local soil conservation districts in making these funds available for soil erosion prevention and water quality improvement projects.”

Landowners can apply through county soil conservation district offices for up to 75 percent of the cost of implementing conservation practices. Conservation practices include projects such as streamside restoration and planting, alternative livestock watering systems, terracing and pasture management.

The Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund was established in 1991 and is funded through a portion of the real estate transfer tax that also funds state land acquisition programs. The ARCF also helps secure additional federal dollars for the state’s 319 Non-point Source Pollution program, which addresses water quality issues in priority watersheds.

A portion of the cost-share grants are funded through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. TAEP was established in 2005 by Governor Bredesen and funded by the Tennessee General Assembly to spur agricultural development in the state. TAEP helps fund technical assistance for landowners, educational programs and the purchase of specialized equipment that can be made available to farmers to aid with conservation tillage, seeding and other practices.

For more information about the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Water Resources program or the Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund, visit www.TN.gov/agriculture or call 615-837-5225.