In the past year, the Natural Resources Conservation Service state office committed more than $26 million to help Nebraska farmers and ranchers protect their natural resources, according to Steve Chick, NRCS state conservationist.
"This investment of taxpayer money is more than matched with investment by the farmer or rancher," Chick says. "These dollars are a financial incentive to encourage the landowner to protect their natural resources that benefit all citizens with cleaner water, air, and more wildlife habitat."
The dollars were committed in more than 1,700 Environmental Quality Incentives Program fund contracts. Practices such as terraces, fences, livestock watering tanks and pipelines to improve grazing and low-pressure irrigation nozzles to conserve water are just some of the conservation practices.
More than $7 million dollars of the $26 million were committed to improving irrigation water use. "This is not new irrigated land, but rather helping convert less efficient water distribution systems to more efficient sprinkler systems," says Chick. "We are reducing the water usage and reducing energy costs to run those irrigation systems."
NRCS, he adds, also is experiencing an increase in requests for manure management systems from cattle, hog and poultry producers. The requests include everything from helping with the manure storage system to managing the application of manure on the land with soil test.
Producers are encouraged to apply for future EQIP funds at their NRCS office. EQIP has grown in Nebraska from $5 million in 1997 to the $26 million this year and today more than 5.9 million acres in the state are under EQIP contract.
The average cost for treating these acres is a low $23 per acre, which is a one-time cost on a 3 to 10 year contract, and most of the conservation practices remain long after the contract expires, according to Chick.