- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has partnered with Coca-Cola company executives in a landmark public-private partnership to upkeep watersheds on federal properties.

The two entities will join hands on the water issue via a five-year agreement to be signed on Friday, The Associated Press reported. The deal is that the beverage giant will fund USDA environmental protection programs that are aimed at restoring watersheds and slowing runoff on federal lands that have been hit by wildfires, or changed by development.

Farmers and corporations ultimately benefit because both need water to thrive, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, in the AP report.

The partnership comes as a solution to federal budget cuts that have left some environmental programs in jeopardy.

“We need to look creatively at ways to leverage our resources or attract outside resources,” Mr. Vilsack said, in preview of the pact’s formal announcement with Coca-Cola Americas President Steve Cahillane, in Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie near Chicago, AP reported.

Coca-Cola has helped fund several other USDA initiatives in the past two years, AP reported. The company’s helped restore a wetland in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, and also a portion of land along Colorado’s South Platte River.

The partnership to be announced Friday commits Coca-Cola to send money through the National Forest Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for as-yet unspecified projects on federal lands.

Mr. Vilsack said in the AP report that Coca-Cola hasn’t signed on to any specified amount, but that contributions from the company could reach the “millions.”

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