U.S. Water News Online
HOLDREGE, Neb. -- Nebraska farmers living along the
Republican and Platte rivers from the Wyoming border to central
Nebraska will be paid not to irrigate under a program designed to
With parts of Nebraska entering a sixth year of drought, state and
federal officials devised the plan to reduce groundwater and surface
Announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state
officials, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program will be
voluntary and will cover about 100,000 cropland acres in a two-mile
stretch on either side of the Republican and Platte rivers and their
"Our farmers value the choice to irrigate, and this is an
important option," Gov. Dave Heineman said.
The program is expected to cost about $158 million over 15 years.
Farmers can sign up for periods of 10 years or 15 years to retire
irrigated cropland in favor of conservation practices such as
wildlife cover. The state will contribute 20 percent of the cost.
Up to 15,000 acres can be funded under the initial signup,
officials said. Additional enrollment will depend on availability of
funds, and the agreement is subject to appropriations.
"This new CREP partnership will reduce groundwater and surface
water use on irrigated cropland to help alleviate stress on water
resources," said Floyd Gaibler, under secretary of the U.S.
It also will improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat,
Planners hope to provide up to 85,000 more acres of grassland
habitat for wildlife and increase by about 25 percent the area
populations of pheasants and other ground nesting birds.
Sign up for the program will begin April 4 at state and county
Farm Service Agency offices and will last through Dec. 31, 2007, or
until enrollment goals are met.
Up to 50,000 acres will be eligible in the Republican River area,
up to 10,000 acres on the North Platte River above Lake McConaughy
and in a portion of the Pumpkin Creek area and up to 40,000 acres in
the Platte River area below Lake McConaughy.
The program builds on the state's first such agreement, signed in
2002, which covers all or part of 37 central and eastern Nebraska
counties. So far, farmers have signed more than 1,800 contracts under
that program, protecting 19,810 acres, federal agriculture officials
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