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USDA Invests in Conservation Efforts in Mississippi River Basin
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in May announced the Natural Resources Conservation Service and its partners will invest $32 million toward water quality and wetlands improvement projects in seven Mississippi River Basin states.
Of the seven states to receive this funding, six—Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee—are in the Southern region. Nearly $20.2 million will fund the restoration of hardwood bottomland along the river from Kentucky to Louisiana, according to a USDA press release. Arkansas and Iowa will receive $5.4 million and $6 million, respectively.
“These projects are great examples of USDA working with partners to improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the 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.”
Once established, these projects will prevent sediment from entering waterways, decrease flooding and enrich the wetland ecosystem. The USDA estimates this investment will restore 11,400 acres to wetland habitat. Since 2010, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has financed approximately $17.8 million in ongoing conservation and wetland restoration projects along the Mississippi River Basin.
The service provides funding for these projects through its Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program. The USDA works with state and local governments and private landowners to conserve and protect our nation's natural resources—helping preserve our land, and clean our air and water.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant in May signed into law a bill that requires kindergartners and first-graders to be screened for dyslexia, a reading disorder that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols--like letters--in the alphabet, according to The Clarion Ledger. The measure also permits dyslexic students in grades K-6 to transfer to another public or nonpublic school that staffs a dyslexia therapist. Bryant signed a separate bill to provide scholarships toward the study of dyslexia therapy.
The Louisiana legislature in May approved Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed 401(k)-type pension plan for future state employees. According to The Advocate in Baton Rouge, House Bill 61 will replace the existing defined benefit plan for new government hires. Contributions from employees and employers—state government agencies—would be invested by state retirement systems, with individual accounts credited with investment earnings each year.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation in May to implement several changes to the operation of Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services, according to The Oklahoman of Oklahoma City. The changes include a $25 million Pinnacle Plan for expansion of child welfare service, public disclosure of cases involving child death or near death by abuse or neglect and realignment of department oversight, pending voter approval.
Since 2006, Louisiana has transformed into a leader in providing programs that helps problem juveniles steer clear of future trouble, according to a national survey cited in The Advocate of Baton Rouge. The study identified Louisiana as one of the top four states in the nation using evidence-based programs for problem intervention. Louisiana also has one of the highest percentages of the relevant population utilizing the public services provided, The Advocate reported.
A recent study by Auburn University economist Keivan Devari estimated the Retirement System of Alabama has invested $4.6 billion into the state’s economy between 1990 and 2011. Those investments added about $28 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, $14.3 billion in earnings and 282,564 full-time jobs, according to The Montgomery Advertiser.