WASHINGTON – Support for farmers and ranchers in 10 states to conserve water and improve water quality on agricultural working lands through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (A.W.E.P.), which leverages additional resources and services from conservation partners, was announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"The funding announced today will help producers in 10 states begin or expand plans and projects to improve water quality," Mr. Vilsack said.

USDA will provide more than $19.7 million in fiscal year 2010 for 28 projects through this voluntary program. A.W.E.P. provides technical and financial assistance to help farmers and ranchers implement activities to improve agricultural water. The program is administered by U.S.D.A.'s Natural Resources Conservation Service (N.R.C.S.), which enters into agreements with conservation partners to help landowners plan and implement conservation practices in project areas established through the agreements. In the project areas announced today, individual farmers and ranchers may apply for benefits.

A.W.E.P. partners include federally recognized Indian tribes, states, units of local government, agricultural associations, and non-governmental organizations. To become partners, applicants submitted proposals to address the following enhancement activities:

• Water conservation or quantity restoration or enhancement projects

• Water quality restoration or enhancement projects

• Water quality or water conservation plan development

• Irrigation system improvement or irrigation efficiency enhancement

• Activities designed to mitigate the effects of drought and climate change

• Related activities to help achieve water quality or water conservation benefits on agricultural land