USDA AND KANSAS PARTNER ON 20,000-ACRE CONSERVATION PROJECT TO ENHANCE UPPER ARKANSAS RIVER
WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2007 - Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner today announced a new $22.7 million conservation project with the state of Kansas that will enroll up to 20,000 acres of cropland in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to help improve water quality and supplies in the Upper Arkansas River.
"USDA is proud to collaborate with Kansas on this important project that will improve and increase one of the basic necessities of life, which is so vital to the health and well-being of Kansans and other area residents," said Conner. "The Upper Arkansas River CREP represents the success federal, state and other groups can achieve when they combine resources, and it is another shining example of President Bush's Cooperative Conservation initiative."
Through the Upper Arkansas River CREP, USDA and Kansas will enroll up to 20,000 acres of eligible irrigated or non-irrigated cropland in 14- to 15-year Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts within the project area. The CREP project area includes all or parts of these Kansas counties: Barton, Edwards, Finney, Ford, Gray, Hamilton, Kearny, Pawnee, Rice and Stafford. Participants sign CRP contracts with USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). FSA administers CRP on behalf of CCC.
The primary goals of the Upper Arkansas River CREP are to conserve irrigation water and improve water quality by removing land from agricultural production. The project will reduce agricultural chemicals and sediment from entering Kansas watersheds. The contaminants can create poor water quality in rivers and aquifers. The project will conserve water supplies by terminating irrigation water rights connected to the land enrolled in CREP and by establishing permanent vegetative cover and other conservation practices. These practices are intended to slow the decline of the aquifer level and boost water supplies to the Upper Arkansas River. In addition, this project will enhance habitat for a variety of land and water plant and animal species, conserve energy and reduce erosion. More information about this project can be found in the program fact sheet at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/kscrep07.pdf.
To be eligible for this program, an agricultural producer's land must meet specific eligibility requirements. For example, at least 51 percent of the non-irrigated (dryland) cropland must be located within the project area and meet CRP cropping history requirements. To be eligible for the program, irrigated cropland must have been planted and irrigated at the rate of not less than one-half-acre foot per year for four out of the six years, 1996-2001. Other eligibility requirements apply. As soon as signup details are available, FSA will announce them.
The following eligible practices may be established under this program:
Permanent native grasses and legumes - 18,600 acres;
Vegetative cover grass already established - 400 acres;
Filter Strips - 100 acres;
Riparian Buffer - 100 acres; and
Wetland Restoration, flood-plain and nonflood-plain - 200 acres.
Under the Upper Arkansas River CREP, participants will receive annual rental payments and other incentives from CCC and Kansas for voluntarily enrolling land in contracts. Eligible participants will receive cost-share payments up to 50 percent of the eligible reimbursable costs of establishing approved conservation practices. CCC will provide a one-time Signing Incentive Payment and a Practice Incentive Payment for certain conservation practices. CCC will also make a one-time incentive payment equal to 25 percent of the cost of restoring the hydrology for certain practices. CCC will also develop conservation plans, conduct compliance reviews and provide information to potential participants, among other things, under this program.
For its part, Kansas will provide a one-time State Upfront Payment of $62 per irrigated acre or $35 per irrigated acre depending on the soil type of the area. Kansas will pay a one-time State Wetland Bonus of $350 per acre to program participants. It will pay up to $1,000 in cost-share assistance for optional plugging and proper abandonment of a well at the request of the participant for wells where the water right has been terminated. Under the program, Kansas will also provide staffing and support for annual monitoring and evaluation of changes, provide a program coordinator, establish a program steering committee, seek potential participants and perform other duties.
The total cost for the Upper Arkansas River CREP over a 15-year period is estimated at $22.7 million. Kansas will contribute at least 20 percent of the overall annual program cost through a combination of payments to program participants, new funding for the CREP project and certain in-kind services. Ten percent ($2.2709 million) must be in the form of either direct new payments to program participants or new funding for a CREP project. CCC will pay the remaining costs for the program.
A component of CRP, CREP is a federal-state natural resources conservation program that addresses state and nationally significant agricultural-related environmental concerns. Under CREP, program participants receive financial incentives from CCC to voluntarily enroll in contracts of 10 to 15 years. Participants remove cropland and marginal pastureland from agricultural production and convert the land to native grasses, trees and other vegetation. CRP is authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended.