NRCS offers conservation options for producers

■ This is the fifth and final story in a series reporting on the water conference held in Imperial March 27.

    Andy Keep of Imperial is all about conservation and why wouldn’t he be—he’s the district conservationist with the Natural Resources Convervation Service (NRCS).
    Keep covers the three counties of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District (URNRD) which include Chase, Perkins and Dundy Counties.
    He works closely with the URNRD and the district’s farmers on various conservation programs available.
    The primary program Keep and his office focus on in this area is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
     Through EQIP, ag producers receive financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices that optimize environmental benefits on working ag land and range land.
    Funding for EQIP and other NRCS programs comes from the United States Department of Agriculture as part of the current Farm Bill.
    Under the current bill, Nebraska is allocated $25 million  to use across the state. Keep said his office gets around $400,000 each year for conservation projects.
    In the URNRD, NRCS has helped pay for the conversion of most all of the gravity irrigated land to pivots.
    And nearly all pivots in the district have been converted to low pressure drop nozzles to conserve water. NRCS also helped with cost-share on that effort as well.
    Most conservation projects are cost-share partnerships with the producer.
    In the case of temporary retirement of irrigated acres, producers receive annual payments over a three-year period.
    For properties in the URNRD’s quick response area, the NRD added more dollars as an incentive to permanently retire irrigation. Quick response acres have the most impact on streamflow reduction.
    With the irrigation conversions all but complete, EQIP dollars have been going towards the installation of soil moisture probes in fields.
    A probe can accurately track moisture content at various depths of the soil. This allows farmers to better calculate the correct amount of water a crop needs.

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