Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

 Conservation program launched -- Idaho
Signups start May 30

Dave Wilkins
Capital Press Staff Writer 5/29/06

A conservation program that could idle up to 100,000 acres of irrigated farmland in Southern Idaho is finally off the ground.

Federal and state officials last week announced the launch of an Idaho Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

“I strongly encourage Idaho farmers and ranchers to participate in this important conservation program that protects our environment,” Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a statement announcing the program May 19.

“By establishing native grassland habitat, participants will increase wildlife populations and groundwater quality,” he said.

The cost of the program over the next 15 years is projected to be $258 million. The federal government will pay $183 million of the tab, and the state $75 million.

Signups will begin May 30 at USDA’s Farm Service Agency county offices.

Annual rental payments are expected to range from $110 to $150 an acre.

In exchange, participating farmers and ranchers must agree to take their land out of production and adopt certain conservation practices.

Land enrolled in the program will remain under contract for 14 to 15 years.

Signups for the program will continue until the enrollment goal is met, or through Dec. 31, 2007, whichever comes first.

Idaho FSA State Director Wayne Hammon said he expects the full 100,000 acres will be enrolled, with the bulk of it coming this summer. That will give producers time to prepare their ground after harvest this year and begin receiving rental payments in 2007.

“We’re expecting this summer to get at least half” the total enrollment, Hammon said this week. “We hope to have the contracts in place by September or October.”

The Idaho CREP plan is part of an overall strategy to reduce groundwater irrigation demand and boost spring flows that feed the Snake River.

Most of the eligible lands are above the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, a huge region stretching from Ashton to King Hill.

The program is expected to reduce annual irrigation use by up to 200,000 acre feet annually.

“That’s nothing to sneeze at,” Hammon said.

No individual farm may receive more than $50,000 in rental payments per year. That means most farms won’t be able to enroll more than 450 acres, based on projected rental rates.

“I don’t think we’re going to be taking out whole farms,” Hammon said. “With average payments in the range of $110 to $150 per acre, you will probably hit the limit between 400 and 450 acres.”

Two public meetings were scheduled this week in the Magic Valley to explain details of the program.

In Eastern Idaho, public meetings are scheduled May 31 at the Snake River High School Auditorium in Thomas and June 1 at the Mustang Events Center at Roberts. Both meetings will run from 7 to 9 p.m.

Officials with the state FSA office, Idaho Department of Water Resources, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture will be on hand to answer questions.

Questions regarding rental rates, water rights and cropping history requirements are likely to come up, Hammon said.

“I think people want to know the cropping history requirements,” he said. “They want to know what the payment rates will be, because at the end of the day, it only makes sense if it works on paper.”

For more information about the program visit the Idaho FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov/id.

The Idaho CREP program is expected to be one of the largest in the country. Nationwide, there are about 807,000 acres enrolled, with 31,646 farms participating.

The Idaho CREP will include all or parts of the following counties: Ada, Bingham, Blaine, Butte, Camas, Cassia, Clark, Custer, Elmore, Fremont, Gooding, Jefferson, Jerome, Lemhi, Lincoln, Madison, Minidoka, Owyhee and Twin Falls.

In addition, all or parts of Bannock, Bonneville and Power counties will be eligible if total CRP enrollment drops below 25 percent of the county’s total cropland before the CREP project reaches the 100,000-acre enrollment target.

- Friday, May 26, 2006

Dave Wilkins is based in Twin Falls, Idaho. His e-mail address is dwilkins@capitalpress.com.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2005, All Rights Reserved