INDIANAPOLIS -- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Jane Hardisty recently announced Indiana NRCS has $6.5 million available in Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) funding for 2011.
"Ag producers in Indiana have shown strong interested in WRP, especially since the 2008 flooding that did significant damage to crop fields along rivers and streams," Hardisty said.
WRP is the federal government's largest wetlands restoration program.
Through it, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and Indian Tribes to restore, protect and enhance wetlands that have been degraded or converted for agricultural use. More than 80 percent of restorable wetlands are in private ownership.
Participation in WRP is completely voluntary.
NRCS pays farmers for easements on fields that go into WRP. The easement is permanent and removes the field from agricultural production. Value is assigned to the land based on whether it is "Ag Land," or "Non-Ag Land."
NRCS uses Geographic Area Rate Caps (GARC), which are set for each county in the state. The GARC values for 2011 were increased 5 percent from the 2010 values. For instance, in Clay County, the Ag Land rate is $2,260, and the Non-Ag Land rate is $1,356.
Title to the land remains with the owner. If restoration work is needed, NRCS pays 100 percent of the costs, up to set maximum caps.
"We have had strong funding in the Wetlands Reserve Program for the last several years and have been able to offer opportunities to farmers who have had flood damaged fields, or fields where production has slipped because of repeated flooding," Hardisty said. "With WRP, we restore these acres to the kind of conditions they were in before they were converted for farming. This will reduce erosion on those fields, restore wildlife habitat and enable those farmers to make improvements in other places in their farming operations."
Estimated to have covered more than 220 million acres during colonial times, wetlands in the lower 48 states are now less than half that amount. Wetland losses in some states are more than 90 percent. More than 40 percent of federally listed species and more than 50 percent of migratory birds require wetland habitats during some portion of their life cycle.
"Now is an excellent time to apply," program coordinator Jerry Roach said. "We accept applications for WRP continuously. But this year, we will evaluate and rank the applications we have in hand on March 25 to see how much of the funding we are able to assign to Indiana WRP applications.
"We'll know pretty quickly after that which applications are funded. All states are operating under the same timeframe and states that don't assign 100 percent of their funding could lose some of it. And it'll be reassigned to states that have applications for funding. In past years, we have received additional WRP dollars because we had good applications in hand."
For more information about WRP and to find out the 2011 GARC rates for Clay County, visit the Indiana NRCS WRP website at http://www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/WRP....
Additional information may be obtained from NRCS District Conservationist for Clay County Doris Scully by calling 448-1108 Ext. 3.