TRENTON, Nebraska -- The Middle Republican Natural Resources District board of directors voted Tuesday afternoon to help fund payments to landowners permanently retiring irrigated acres through the "Ogallala Aquifer Initiative."
The Ogallala Aquifer Initiative is a voluntary program to provide technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who want to improve water conservation on their agricultural land. The initiative is a joint effort of eight states -- Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas -- each one of which uses the same project approval criteria based on USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) information.
On Feb. 15, 2012, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Nebraska announced that $3.6 million is available this year to help implement water conservation improvements on land within priority areas located over the Ogallala Aquifer.
Jason Kennedy, district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office in McCook, told MRNRD board members during their monthly meeting Tuesday in Trenton that he has applications from landowners who want to revert irrigated acres to dryland, and one individual interested in the permanent retirement of irrigated acres.
The MRNRD board voted unanimously to pay two years of payments for the permanent retirement of irrigations (up to 150 acres per one landowner).
MRNRD general manager Dan Smith said, "Our action was to provide additional funding for up to 150 acres of permanent retirement if Ogallala Initiative funds are used for that retirement."
Smith said that the Ogallala Initiative can fund a practice for three years. So, he said, if someone wants to permanently retire irrigated acres and the only funds the federal government has to use are the Ogallala initiative funds, the MRNRD will pay what would be years four and five -- in addition to the bonus the MRNRD already pays for permanent retirement.
Smith said, "We will add the amount of years four and five to our bonus and give the producer the option of receiving that payment in two years. We will not hold those funds and pay them in year four and five of their contract."
Smith said that the Ogallala initiative funds can be used for other practices, but the MRNRD will add funds to permanent retirement practices only.