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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Agriculture Department will send $2.4 million to Montana for promoting water conservation on farms and ranches and try to reduce long-term drought damage.

The money is part of a $53 million package to 17 states in the Northern Plains. In addition to Montana's allocation, Wyoming will receive about $2.2 million, South Dakota, $504,000 and North Dakota, $107,100.

States that receive the money will offer cost-sharing and incentive payments to ranchers who take such steps as improving irrigation techniques and convert to crops that require less water. The program is voluntary.

The money comes from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service through provisions in last year's farm bill. Most of the money is being sent to the West, where water-supply problems are chronic, the USDA said.

Besides the Northern Plains states, money will go to: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

For more information about the NRCS program, click here.

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