"The federal government is taking a new approach to conservation with a $1.2 billion program in the Farm Bill that will include competitive grants for soil and water improvements in eight regions, including the longleaf pine forests of North Carolina and other Southern states, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Thursday.
'This is a new day,' Vilsack said in an interview.
In the past, conservation money has gone to individual farmers and other landowners. While that work will continue, The U.S. Department of Agriculture is adding a regional program aimed at encouraging companies, universities, conservation groups and communities to invest along with the federal government in innovative conservation projects, he said."
Renee Schoof reports for the McClatchy Washington Bureau May 29, 2014.