In 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) continued a proud tradition of working in partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). A summary of its accomplishments can be found in its newly-released NRCS Caribbean Area 2021 Annual Accomplishments Summary.
“Our data shows that we and our partners brought a healthier resource base and were able to impact farmers and communities by bringing more-efficient customer service and investing in targeted conservation initiatives in 2021,” said Luis Cruz-Arroyo, NRCS state conservationist for the Caribbean Area (Puerto Rico and the USVI). The following are some highlights:
Investments in Planning, Farm Bill Programs and Emergency Conservation Assistance
In the Caribbean Area, NRCS and its partners helped land managers invest in their operations through 307 new Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts worth over $7.9 million. This work resulted in conservation plans for over 18,600 acres of farmland. And over $5 million was invested to apply conservation practices on 17,367 acres in the Caribbean Area through existing contracts.
In 2021, NRCS targeted our efforts to conserve some of our islands’ most-valuable resources. Because of this assistance from NRCS and its partners, water quality improvement practices were implemented on more than 12,000 acres, grazing land conservation practices were applied on 8,364 acres, cropland conservation was applied to improve soil health and quality on 3,765 acres, irrigation efficiency was improved on 1,358 acres, and over 17,950 trees were delivered to Puerto Rico’s farmers through the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership Initiative.
NRCS continued to provide technical and financial assistance through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP) to repair watershed damage from hurricanes Irma and María and Tropical Storms Dorian and Isaías. This year, NRCS completed all EWP clearing and snagging projects still pending post-Hurricane María and Tropical Storm Isaías – a total investment of $3.9 million to complete 73 projects.
This significant accomplishment was achieved through the efforts of NRCS staff and support from our EWP sponsors (VI Department of Public Works; Caribe, Oeste and Suroeste Soil and Water Conservation Districts; PR Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and several Puerto Rico municipalities). Great strides were also achieved in design plan development and detailed assessment of two Añasco, PR, dams damaged by Hurricane María (Ajíes and Dagüey). Repair construction work is expected to begin in FY 2022.
Customer Service and Outreach
NRCS improved customer service by applying new ways to meet its customers’ needs. In 2021, NRCS invested over $1 million in grants and cooperative agreements to assist our farmers and field offices.
NRCS also provided Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) to more than 8,500 clients and media outreach to over 1.6 million residents through over 2,500 separate activities and contacts. Over 99% of the financial assistance we provided went to beginning, limited-resource or socially-disadvantaged farmers, and 19% of our FY 2021 participants were women, 7% were black and 89% were Hispanic.
For more information about NRCS Caribbean Area programs, activities and our accomplishments in 2021, download the ‘NRCS Caribbean Area 2021 Annual Accomplishments Summary’ or visit www.pr.nrcs.usda.gov.