Ag. Secretary Assures FY22 Watershed Funding Secured by Hyde-Smith Will Help Address Damages Caused By June 2021 Excessive Rain Event

051022 Ag Approps FY23 USDA
VIDEO:  Senator Hyde-Smith Reviews Outlook for NRSC Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today looked to determine a sufficient level of funding for a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that assists Mississippi communities with flood mitigation, water quality improvements, erosion control, and related activities.

The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on which Hyde-Smith serves today hosted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at a hearing to review the FY2023 budget request for the USDA and related agencies, like the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) Program.

“Like many rural communities and landowners across the United States, Mississippi and its people have been hit particularly hard in recent years by excessive rainfall, flooding, and other problems caused by natural disasters,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program has been invaluable in allowing small towns to recover from these events, and, importantly, to also prepare for the next one because the next one will be coming as well.”

Hyde-Smith sought assurances from Vilsack that the NRCS could effectively use the additional funding sought for the WFPO Program in FY2023, a $25 million increase over the $100 million appropriated this year.  Vilsack endorsed increased funding, adding, “I think the key here is not just increasing the resources, but making sure that you got the staff on the ground to make sure you can implement these resources in a proper way.”

Responding to Hyde-Smith, Vilsack also said NRCS personnel are now working with local sponsors on using the $8.4 million in WFPO funding the Senator secured in FY2022 for nine flood control, erosion reduction, and bank stabilization projects in nine Mississippi counties.  He also noted additional resources being delivered to the state through the recently-enacted infrastructure bill.

“We know that a lot of the sediment issues in Mississippi are not a result of your losing your top soil.  It’s the result of the banks basically eroding over time, creating some challenges.  I think you’re going to see significant activity in this space in Mississippi because of the money and resources that have been provide through the appropriations process and the infrastructure law,” Vilsack said.
In a second round of questions, Hyde-Smith and Vilsack concurred that investments in combatting Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) are leading to a better understanding of the fatal disease that threatens cervids, like Mississippi’s whitetail deer population.

“Historically, there have been many questions and unknowns surrounding this disease,” Hyde-Smith said.  “However, thanks to new CWD research being conducted by USDA and its university partners, along with better surveillance and response efforts carried out by State wildlife agencies, we are starting to make strides in the area of CWD.”

Hyde-Smith last week cosponsored the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act (S.4111) to authorize a five-year CWD research and management program involving USDA cooperative agreements with state and tribal wildlife agencies, and state agriculture departments.