Incentive Program Expanded: Additional Payments For Producers in Water Quality Target Areas

Incentive Program Expanded: Additional Payments For Producers in Water Quality Target Areas

Wednesday, November 2, 2022
The Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District offers an incentive program for producers in portions of the Recharge Lake Watershed, the Beaver Creek Watershed, and some municipal Wellhead Protection Areas. Practices included in this program are cover crops, buffer/filter strips, and land treatment practices. The area covered by these programs has increased since this program was announced last year, so if you didn’t qualify previously, you may qualify now. The new boundaries for the program encompass the entirety of the Beaver Creek watershed. 
 
The purpose of the program is to increase incentives for producers who are interested in installing these important conservation practices. Cover crops and buffer strips are simple ways to improve water quality, as they keep sediments and agrochemicals on the fields instead of washing into waterways.
 
“Our hope is that this program will allow more producers to plant cover crops and filter strips to improve the quality of the water in our district in key areas where we know we can make a significant impact,” said Marie Krausnick, assistant general manager at the Upper Big Blue NRD. “We want to make it as simple as possible for producers who have been thinking about installing these practices to go ahead and take action now and get started.”

These two practices were among those identified by a district stakeholders group as those that are likely to be adopted by the district’s agricultural community, if the right incentives and supports were in place. The stakeholder group that made recommendations to the board of directors of the NRD included landowners, operators, agribusiness owners, recreationists, municipal representatives, and livestock producers in the Beaver Creek watershed. They met from January to March of 2021 to discuss water quality issues in the district and hosted an open house event to present ideas to the public. Materials from these meetings are available at upperbigblue.org/WQMP.

As with much of the state of Nebraska, water quality concerns in the area targeted by this program include nitrates, which are known to cause adverse health outcomes for humans. The program will also help with concentrations of atrazine and phosphorus, which harm wildlife that depend on streams, lakes, and rivers in the district. If widely adopted, this new incentive program could improve the quality of drinking water in the district, as well as improve the recreational opportunities at Bruce L. Anderson Recreation Area in York, where the fishery has been dramatically decreased due to poor water quality.
 
Producers who are interested in applying for the incentive program can call Dan Leininger at the NRD office at (402) 362-6601, or complete a short form on the NRD website. The application process is quick and easy to allow for installation of conservation practices. This program is funded directly by the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District and is not affiliated with any federal conservation programs. However, the program does include collaboration with local NRCS soil specialists to ensure best results. View full program details here.