VALLEY — The signup period for Colorado Rio Grande Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) started on May 20.
The Colorado Rio Grande CREP is a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture, the State Colorado and Subdistrict No. 1 of the RGWCD that provides incentives for farmers to voluntarily enroll irrigated cropland into the program.
Farmers who voluntarily enroll in the R.G. CREP will help to conserve irrigation water and reduce ground water withdraws from the Rio Grande Basin while also enhancing water quality, reducing erosion, improving wildlife habitat and conserving energy within the Rio Grande watershed.
In general, the CREP provides incentives from USDA in the way of cost-share and rental payments, for a term of 14-15 years to producers willing to forego irrigation and cropping on a parcel(s) of land. Subdistrict No. 1, through its Water Activity Enterprise, will also provide incentives and bonuses based on meeting certain criteria.
CREP was initiated in the Rio Grande Basin as an integral part of the Special Improvement District No. 1 of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (Subdistrict) plan of water management. This CREP has been approved for the enrollment of up to 40,000 acres which helps meet the primary objective of the plan of water management of reducing the numbers of acres irrigated within the Subdistrict boundary.
The R.G. CREP is a key component that, when implemented, will insure that there is recovery and maintenance of groundwater storage in the unconfined aquifer at a historically sustainable level and to assist in the effort to permanently maintain the Hydraulic Divide.
The Rio Grande CREP has one of the highest USDA irrigated rental rates in the nation. USDA irrigated rental payments for the R.G CREP include $175/acre/year through the term of the contract plus a USDA-FSA cost-share of 50 percent of total cost of practice installation which is about $100.00 an acre.
Additional incentives and bonuses will be provided by Subdistrict No. 1. Subdistrict No. 1 incentives include annual rental payments and additional bonuses for lands that are located within a specific Focus Area and bonuses for owners that elect to permanently retire irrigation and their well.
As CREP is a component of the Conservation Reserve Program, it is regulated through the Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill could be extended after September 30, or a new Farm Bill could be written and made effective on October 1. One critical component of CRP that could change if a new Farm Bill is written and made effective on October 1 is a USDA rule that requires CREP acres to be cropped and irrigated four out of six years. The cropping and irrigation years under the current Farm Bill are 2002 through 2007. If a new Farm Bill is written and approved, those years will likely change. This could have an effect on some producers that may be interested in enrolling acres in the R.G. CREP. Interested producers should check with their local FA office as soon as possible to ensure they can meet the cropping history requirements under the current Farm Bill. Cropping history years are particularly important to producers that are growing alfalfa.
For more detailed information on Subdistrict No. 1 bonus payments/incentives payments or a map of the Focus Area please visit www.rgwcd.org or call 589-6301. For more information on landowner and land eligibility, please call or visit a local FSA office.