Mark Udall welcomed U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar's announcement today of a new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) project to help conserve irrigation water and reduce groundwater withdrawal from the Rio Grande Basin. This agreement will establish permanent native grasses and wildlife habitat, shallow areas for wildlife and wetland restoration on up to 40,000 acres of eligible irrigated cropland in order to reduce annual irrigation water use by approximately 60,000 acre-feet.
"Conservation programming at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is an integral tool for helping farmers, ranchers and rural communities mitigate the impact of ongoing drought conditions and to protect critical water resources in the San Luis Valley and elsewhere in our state," Udall said. "I am hopeful that Colorado's agreement with USDA on this voluntary conservation program will build on existing conservation efforts and serve as a continuation of athe solid work being done to protect and conserve our natural resources and sustain a viable agricultural industry."
The CREP is an option under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that agricultural producers may use to voluntarily establish conservation practices on their land. Once the agreement is formalized, participants will::
Voluntarily enroll irrigated cropland into specialized 14-15 year Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts; and,
Enter into water use agreements with Subdistrict Number 1 of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.
An additional perpetual irrigation water retirement agreement also will be an option for producers to help achieve long-term water savings.