January 18, 2017
The Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattlemen, the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the Farm Service Agency are encouraging the state's landowners to learn more about a USDA Conservation Reserve Program option. Under the "Migratory Birds, Butterflies and Pollinators" State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), up to 10,000 acres can be enrolled in this CRP initiative in areas of the state known for playa wetlands.
FSA manages the CRP program. Nebraska FSA will open enrollment for this new Migratory Birds SAFE option in the coming weeks. It is anticipated that the first offer window will close March 31.
"This CRP option gives Nebraska farmers another tool they can use to improve the economic viability of their operations, especially in marginally productive and flood-prone acres. Such tools and options are particularly important in these challenging times," said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.
According to Andy Bishop, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture coordinator, the Joint Venture partnered with several other entities to develop and present this project proposal to FSA as a way to provide landowners with farmed crop acres that continually flood a financially viable alternative that also increases important habitat for migratory birds.
"These wetlands support millions of migratory birds during their biannual migrations from the wintering grounds to the breeding grounds. Acres enrolled in this program will also serve to improve water quality and seasonally recharge groundwater in the Ogallala Aquifer," said Bishop.
Roric Paulman, a producer near Sutherland, praised the partners for developing an economically viable conservation program with the programmatic flexibility to fit into irrigated agriculture operations.
"Nebraska's producers recognize the importance of good stewardship, but conservation programs have to be economically viable and complement the farm operation or they simply can't be implemented," said Paulman.
The program allows for a minimum parcel size of 2 acres up to a maximum of 160 acres.
"Mid-contract management, meaning the application of management practices to keep the cover healthy, will be required," said Greg Reisdorff, Nebraska FSA chief for Conservation and Environmental Programs. "This includes the option for managed harvesting of the acres and/or prescribed grazing. Contracts will be for 10 to 15 years."
Landowners interested in learning more about this SAFE project should visit their local FSA office. To find a county office in Nebraska, visit fsa.usda.gov/ne, and click on "County offices" in the left-hand toolbar.
Source: Nebraska Farm Bureau
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