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- When Ashland Plantation discontinued catfishing farming, it needed a plan for the 400 acres that had been in ponds.
- About 300 acres will be put into trees under the Conservation Reserve Program.
- Under the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, 30 acres have been converted to water storage facilities.
Three types of systems
There are three types of systems that qualify for assistance under AWEP, he says:
1. Surface water use (pumping from lakes, streams, etc.).
2. True tailwater recovery systems to capture irrigation return flow, with pumping and delivery systems for reapplying the water to the land. “We try to size these so there will be .3 acre feet of water for each acre of field to be watered.”
3. On-farm water storage structures, “where we begin with tailwater recovery systems and construct large embankment ponds for storing large quantities of water.”
“Our field offices work with the farmer-cooperator to complete the enrollment process and do the planning survey and design work,” Rodrigue says. “The farmer-cooperator then hires a contractor to do the actual construction work, and after it’s completed, we do a checkout to be sure it is built to design standards.”
It usually takes about six months to complete the contract process and then 12 months to 24 months for construction and NRCS checkout. For long-term projects such as this, cooperators are usually those who have control of the land, either the owners or those who have long-term leases.
“While these are excellent programs for farmers who have old catfish ponds that can be converted, or low-lying land that isn’t suitable for crops, unfortunately there is no payment available for loss of income for taking crop land out of production for these programs,” Rodrigue says.
“But for a relatively small investment over the long term, for farmers with available land, these programs offer a real opportunity to maximize their irrigation potential and help to preserve natural resources. For every dollar the landowner invests, the government makes an investment, too — it’s one of this country’s great conservation stories.”