By JOHN O'CONNELL
Idaho farmers within the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer have until May 21 to apply for a program, offered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, that pays them to implement groundwater-efficient practices.
A different list of counties, or parts of counties, within the aquifer in which growers are eligible is designated for each specified conservation practice.
The program is funded with a portion of Idaho's $4.9 million share of federal Agricultural Water Enhancement Program revenue, authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill.
For eligible growers, the program shares costs associated with building storage reservoirs, implementing systems that convert a grower's irrigation source from ground to surface water, replacing leaky canals and diversion structures with pipe or concrete, or converting to pressurized sprinkler systems. Cost share payments are intended to cover roughly half to 75 percent of the price of a project, said Ron Brooks, NRCS resource conservationist.
The program also gives payments to growers in certain counties who switch to dryland farming or add dryland crops to their rotations. For example, a grower who switches to non-irrigated pasture is paid $88 per acre, and a grower who moves from an irrigated crop to a wheat-fallow system is paid $110 per acre.
Crop contracts can last up to five years.
"The whole umbrella goal of this is to reduce that pressure on the Snake Plain Aquifer," Brooks said.
For more information, call Clint Evans with the NRCS at 208-378-5703, or visit a local NRCS office.