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Public Statements

Johanns Announces Idaho Conservation Partnership to Conserve Water and Protect Wildlife

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


JOHANNS ANNOUNCES IDAHO CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP TO CONSERVE WATER AND PROTECT WILDLIFE

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2006 -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced a $258 million Idaho Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement to reduce irrigation water consumption, improve water quality and improve fish and wildlife habitat in Idaho's Snake River.

"The Idaho CREP's goals of conserving water and reducing contaminants highlights President Bush's commitment to conservation," said Johanns. "By establishing native grassland habitat, participants will increase wildlife populations and groundwater quality, while reducing irrigation. I strongly encourage Idaho farmers and ranchers to participate in this important conservation program that protects our environment."

"This is a winning agreement for all of Idaho," said Idaho Lt. Governor Jim Risch. "The agreement benefits our agriculture community and protects the environment. After extensive research, we have determined that this unique state-federal partnership will result in better water flows for spring users, improved water quality for everyone and an increase in wildlife habitat. At the same time, this agreement will protect the income streams of our rural communities that depend on agriculture to drive the economy."

The CREP agreement announced today was signed by Johanns and Lt. Governor Risch on behalf of Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne.

Enrolling up to 100,000 acres of irrigated cropland in the Idaho Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer CREP is projected to reduce irrigation water use by up to 200,000 acre-feet annually. The CREP will improve the Snake River's water quality and flow by increasing groundwater levels and reduce the application of agricultural chemicals and sediments. Establishing permanent vegetative cover will provide habitat for many wildlife species.

The Eastern Snake River Aquifer CREP Project area of eastern Idaho includes all or parts of the following counties: Ada, Bingham, Blaine, Butte, Camas, Cassia, Clark, Custer, Elmore, Fremont, Gooding, Jefferson, Jerome, Lemhi, Lincoln, Madison, Minidoka, Owyhee, and Twin Falls. In addition, all or parts of Bannock, Bonneville and Power counties will be eligible if the total CRP enrollment drops below 25 percent of the County's total cropland before the CREP project reaches the 100,000 acre enrollment target.

CREP sign-up begins May 30, 2006, and continues until enrollment goals are met, or through Dec. 31, 2007, whichever comes first. Land enrolled in the program will remain under contract for 14 to 15 years, as specified in the contract.

CCC estimates the Idaho Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer CREP's total cost over a 15-year period will be $258 million, with CCC contributing $183 million and the State of Idaho funding $75 million.

Over the course of the contracts, CREP participants will receive CCC incentive payments as applicable and cost-share assistance for installing approved conservation practices. CCC will also provide annual rental payments based on irrigated cash rents for the life of the contract. The State of Idaho will provide incentive cost-share payments for CREP enrolled land, and buy out water rights on other land in the CREP project area.

CREP is a federal-state cooperative conservation program that addresses targeted agricultural-related environmental concerns. With the Idaho CREP in place, CCC now has 36 CREP agreements with 28 states. Nationwide, landowners on 31,646 farms participate in various state CREPs, protecting 807,343 acres, including 88,072 wetland acres.

CREP is part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), America's largest and most effective private-lands conservation program, with more than 36 million acres enrolled. Through the general CRP and CREP, farmers and ranchers plant grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams. The plantings stop soil and nutrients from washing into regional waterways and contaminating the air. They also provide habitat for wildlife.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of CRP. The program has amassed a wealth of benefits for the United States, including preventing 450 million tons of soil from eroding each year and restoring 1.8 million wetland acres.

Producers can obtain more information on the Idaho Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer CREP at their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office and on FSA's Web site at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/default.htm.

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