FAQ: I've been told that I need to sign up by February 17 if I want to enroll some land in USDA's Wetlands Reserve Program this year. How does that program work?
Answer: USDA in January announced that February 17, 2012 will be the next cutoff date to submit applications through the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) for Iowa landowners interested in restoring agricultural land to natural wetlands. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is the agency that handles this program.
WRP is a voluntary program that provides technical and financial assistance to eligible private landowners and tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring eligible land from agriculture, explains Monica Monk, easement program coordinator for NRCS in Iowa. She is located in the state NRCS office in Des Moines.
WRP is a continuous signup program, although NRCS periodically makes funding selections as program funding allows. February 17 is the second cutoff date for fiscal year 2012 funding, she says.
During fiscal year 2011, NRCS enrolled easements on more than 4,000 acres across Iowa at a value exceeding $15 million. Over the past 20 years, more than 156,000 acres have been restored or are in the process of being restored to wetlands in Iowa through WRP and similar federal programs.
This year 10% of Iowa's WRP allocation is to go to underserved landowners
This fiscal year, NRCS in Iowa is setting aside 10% of its WRP allocation for beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, and limited resource producers. "We are committed to improving service to private landowners and enhancing outreach to historically underserved landowners," says Monk.
Wetlands provide habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species; improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals; reduce flooding; recharge groundwater; protect biological diversity; and provide opportunities for educational, scientific, and limited recreational activities.
To apply or to find out more about WRP eligibility and enrollment options, visit your local USDA Service Center or go online to www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/WRP.html.