Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, announced last month that the USDA will invest another $8 million for the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI). As the primary water source for the High Plains region, the Ogallala Aquifer supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle produced in the U.S. The new investment will help build resilience for farmers and ranchers served by the aquifer, while conserving billions of gallons of water annually. 
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) oversees the OAI and works with local environmentalists, state agencies and land grant universities for its conservation projects. According to the NCRS Ogallala Aquifer Initiative Fact Sheet, “the Initiative offers a combination of technical and financial assistance to landowners and land managers…to reduce the quantity of water removed from the aquifer, improve water quality and enhance the economic viability of Ogallala Aquifer Initiative-area farms and ranches.” 
Spanning almost 174,000 square miles, the Ogallala Aquifer encompasses almost all of Nebraska and several large segments of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. With years of unprecedented drought, the Ogallala Aquifer saw its overall water level drop by 36 million acre-feet from 2011 to 2013, according to agriculture.com. 
Recently, the NCRS announced two new focus areas for the initiative, including the Middle Republican Natural Resource District in Nebraska and the Oklahoma Ogallala Aquifer Initiative. With the demand for water resources increasing, the program emphasizes efficient irrigation use, thereby making lands more resilient to the effects of drought. Both projects will also address groundwater concerns and prioritize education on best conservation practices to decrease overall water use. 
According to Vilsack, “[the] USDA has invested $74 million in helping more than 1,600 agricultural producers conserve water on 341,000 acres through this initiative” from its start in 2011.  Hoping to continue these conservation measures, the USDA is banking on the new proposal to provide resiliency in the face of drought while preparing for the future of our agricultural economy.
 Office of Communications. USDA Expands Investment in Water Conservation and Improvement in Nation’s Largest Aquifer. USDA. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2015/11/0310.xml&contentidonly=true
 Anna McConnell. USDA Investing $8 Million in Ogallala Aquifer Initiative. Meredith Corporation. http://www.agriculture.com/news/policy/usda-investing-8-million-in-ogallala_4-ar51074
 Ogallala Aquifer Initiative Fact Sheet. United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1048828.pdf