Clock is ticking; deadline for signup is May 15.
By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Irrigators with land with the Rapid Response Area (RRA) of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District (URNRD) will get the opportunity to permanently retire those acres in return for a check that could be as high as $2,600 per acre.
The amount of that check will vary based on the amount of stream flow depletion and historical use on the respective property.
During their regular meeting April 5, the board approved the retirement plan with the goal of retiring about 1,000 acres this year.
The board committed $1.75 million of its own funds, collected from the occupation tax.
This money will be coupled with up to $1 million in federal funds from the Agriculture Water Enhancement Program (AWEP).
Manager Jasper Fanning urged the board to get a plan into place since the AWEP money must be committed by mid-May.
The AWEP money will provide $960 per acre towards retirement compensation.
By retiring about 1,000 acres in the RRA this year, URNRD manager Jasper Fanning said it would create a savings of 780 acre-feet that could be used towards compact compliance.
The ultimate goal would be to retire enough acres to generate about 5,000 acre-feet of cushion, he said.
That can be coupled with the district’s augmentation project in southwest Dundy County which is expected to generate about 10,000 acre-feet towards compliance.
RRA acres the top priority
The highest priority for retiring irrigated land will be those acres close to the Republican River and its tributaries that have a high impact on stream flow depletion.
The URNRD already has the stream flow depletion factor (SDF) for each tract in the district, which is based on groundwater models.
The second priority will be to retire acres in areas with significant historical groundwater declines.
These areas include irrigated land northwest of Benkelman in Dundy County, the Lamar area in Chase County, and south of Grant in Perkins County.
Any land that is retired will be able to be farmed as dryland.
Payments Based on Formula
The district has built a formula based on several factors to determine per-acre compensation. These include the SDF and historical use.
Historical water use will be based on four of the last five years of use. Water use history will be capped at 13 inches, which represents the annual allocation.
The formula also provides a per-acre bonus to account for higher corn prices.
The bonus is calculated on the crop insurance price for the year, which is based on the average of December corn futures prices. This year, that price is $6.01 per bushel.
So for every penny that corn exceeds a cash price of $4 per bushel, the formula adds a $1 per acre bonus.
So for this year’s retirement program, irrigators will receive a per-acre bonus of $201.
The formula produces higher payments for land with a high SDF.
The baseline price for retirement is $2,500 per acre-foot of benefit or water savings, which is boosted to $2,701 per acre -foot benefit with the corn price bonus.
The following is an explanation of the formula:
The amount of per-acre stream flow benefit is calculated by dividing historical use (capped at 13 inches) by 12 (12 inches in a foot). The resulting figure will then be multiplied times the 50-year stream flow depletion factor to produce the acre feet of benefit.
This figure is then multiplied by $1,751 (the URNRD share). The AWEP-funded portion of the payment, $950 per acre, is then added to that amount to produce the total per-acre payment.
For example, a tract with 13 inches of historical use and a 50-year SDF of 85 percent would be eligible for $2,562.38 per acre (13” / 12” x .85 x $1,751 + $950).
A tract with 11 inches of historical use and a 50-year SDF of 70 percent would be eligible for $2,083.56 per acre (11” / 12” x .70 x $1,751 + $950).
Applications Due by May 15
Irrigators considering retiring acres need to act quickly. The application deadline for the AWEP program is May 15.
Applications must be submitted to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office in Imperial by that date.
Applications will be ranked based on several different criteria.