Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its partners will invest nearly $32 million this year in financial and technical assistance for five water quality and wetlands improvement projects in seven Mississippi River Basin states.

When fully implemented, the projects will prevent sediment and nutrients from entering waterways, decrease flooding and improve bird and fish habitat. NRCS estimates that this investment will restore 11,400 acres to wetland habitat.

"These projects are great examples of USDA working with partners to improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin," Vilsack said in a news release. "Through these projects, agricultural producers are voluntarily taking action to restore and protect wetlands on private lands in watersheds that USDA has identified as being critical to water quality restoration in the basin."

Landowners interested in applying for funding should contact their local NRCS office (http://go.usa.gov/m2Y) or the partner listed here. Signup dates may vary based on the individual project.

Learn more about the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program at http://go.usa.gov/m24 and find out about other NRCS programs and initiatives at http://go.usa.gov/m22.