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Irrigators show strong interest in retirement program PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 05 May 2011 17:13

Deadline coming up May 15

By Russ Pankonin

The Imperial Republican


Interest remains strong for an acreage retirement program focusing on acres in the Rapid Response Area (RRA) of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District (URNRD).

The URNRD and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) joined forces last month in an effort to retire irrigated acres that adversely affect stream flow in the basin.

Taking those acres out of production will help the URNRD achieve compact compliance with Kansas. Irrigators interested in taking advantage of the program must do so before the May 15 deadline.

Nadine Bishop, district conservationist with NRCS, and Nate Jenkins, assistant NRD manager, both said they’ve seen lots of interest in the program.

Bishop said they already have applications pending on more than 20 parcels of ground in the RRA. And gauging by the interest this week, she expects more land to be enrolled prior to the May 15 cut-off.

Some of that new interest was generated by an NRD mailing to 92 well owners in the RRA across the district.

Jenkins said the letters spelled out the amount of compensation that would be paid for retiring acres under the respective wells.


Local, state funding

The NRCS will provide $1 million to the retirement program through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP).

The AWEP funding, coupled with $1.75 million in occupation tax funds from the URNRD, will provide the incentive payment to irrigators who make the conversion to dryland.

A formula based on several factors will determine per-acre compensation. These include the impact a well has on stream flow depletion and historical use.

The formula also provides a per-acre bonus to account for higher corn prices.

For this year, irrigators will receive a per-acre bonus of $201 on acres retired.

The baseline per-acre price for retirement is $2,500 per acre-foot of benefit or water savings, which is boosted to $2,701 per acre-foot benefit with the corn price bonus.

Wells with higher stream flow depletion factors will generate a higher payment compared to wells further away from rivers, streams or tributaries in the district.

Thus far, Bishop said a number of applications have been received from areas with higher stream flow depletion. These acres represented the most highly targeted acres in the program. Jenkins said they targeted 1,000 acres as a goal in this first retirement program. He said it appears they are going to hit that goal.

He said the AWEP money played a big role in this first effort. He said the lessons learned will be a big advantage in future retirement programs planned by the URNRD.

State Conservationist Craig Derickson the NRCS is proud to be a partner in this program that “will help conserve one of Nebraska’s most precious natural resources – its water.”


$50K for efficiency projects

As part of the $1 million AWEP grant, $50,000 has been set aside for irrigators in the district to implement irrigation efficiency projects.

AWEP dollars will help irrigators purchase services and or products that increase irrigation efficiency.

There are a range of products and services that could qualify, Jenkins said. One of the services include soil-moisture management.

The vendor provides soil-moisture sensors and places them throughout fields to collect soil-moisture data and data on how plants are using the moisture.

The data is integrated with a computer program that helps recommend ways producers can use water more efficiently and effectively to increase crop production while saving water and money.

The deadline to apply for these funds is also May 15.

Irrigators interested in participating in either program can contact the NRD office at 882-5173 or the NRCS office at 882-4263 in Imperial.