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Water Bank Program

Flooded cropland in southwest Iowa.

Introduction

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, Congress appropriated $4 million to fund the Water Bank Program (WBP) and NRCS is opening enrollment into the program in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The purposes of WBP include:

  1. Preserving and improving major wetlands as habitat for migratory waterfowl and other wildlife
  2. Conserving surface waters
  3. Reducing soil and wind erosion
  4. Contributing to flood control
  5. Improving water quality
  6. Improving subsurface moisture
  7. Enhancing the natural beauty of the landscape

WBP will focus on flood reduction this fiscal year.  Severe flooding of agricultural land has been a problem in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, parts of which lie in the prairie pothole region. Eligible land for this year’s WBP included flooded agricultural land, flooded hay, pasture or rangeland, and flooded private forestland.

The intent of WBP is to keep water on the land for the benefit of migratory wildlife such as waterfowl. Landowners and operators can sign new 10-year rental agreements to protect wetlands and provide wildlife habitat. Landowners receive annual payments for conserving and protecting wetlands and adjacent lands from adverse land uses and activities, such as drainage, that would destroy the wetland characteristics of those lands.

Participant Eligibility

To be eligible to participate in the WBP, a person must:

  1. Be the landowner of eligible land for which enrollment is sought for at least two years preceding the date of the agreement unless new ownership was acquired by will or succession as a result of death of the previous owner; or
     
  2. Have possession of the land by written lease over all designated acreage in the agreement for at least two years preceding the date of the agreement unless new ownership was acquired by will or succession as a result of death  of the previous owner and will have possession over all the designated acreage for the agreement period.

Financial assistance will not be available for conservation practices through WBP. WBP participants who wish to establish or maintain conservation practices may apply for financial assistance through other NRCS or state financial assistance programs where available. NRCS will assist participants with developing a Conservation Plan of Operations (CPO) for the enrolled land and associated adjacent land when applicable.

Land enrolled in WBP may not be cropped. NRCS may authorize haying under limited circumstances, such as severe drought. NRCS may authorize grazing where necessary to enhance the wetland functions and values of the land under agreement.

Each participating farm or ranch will enter into a WBP agreement, which will become effective on January 1 of the calendar year in which the agreement is approved. For this signup period, agreements will be considered effective on January 1, 2014. WBP contracts are non-renewable, 10-year rental agreements. Rental payments are made annually.

Program Priorities, Payment Rates, Application Dates

Priorities

  • High – Cropland impacted by flooding
  • Medium – Pasture, hay and range lands impacted by flooding
  • Low – Forest and other lands impacted by flooding

Eligible applications from the High category will be funded first, followed by the Medium and Low categories.

The State-established ranking criteria will emphasize the project’s environmental benefits, cost, availability of matching funds, and significance of wetland functions and values.

Payment Rates

  1. $50/acre/year for cropland
  2. $35/acre/year for pasture and range land (grazing lands)
  3. $20/acre/year for forestland

Application Dates

The WBP application period is from March 17 - April 18, 2014.
States will approve agreements by June 6, 2014.
2014 WBP annual rental payments will be issued by July 25, 2014.

For more information, contact your local NRCS office in Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota.