USDA is offering an Emergency Watershed Protection - Floodplain Easement Program signup from now through October 1, according to Rich Sims, state conservationist for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa. The EWP-FPE provides farmers who have frequently-flooded, river bottom farmland an opportunity to retire that land from production, while creating wildlife benefits and helping to reduce downstream flooding. Farmers should visit their local USDA service center to apply. Local NRCS offices will prioritize all EWP-FPE applications in preparation for the state receiving national funds sometime after the October 1 deadline. Farmers who have applied prior to this signup will not need to reapply, says Sims.
Cropland fields receive higher ranking
Through EWP-FPE, federal funds are available to purchase permanent easements and pay for restoration of wetlands. River area floodplains, damaged by flooding within the past year or at least two times during the last 10 years, are eligible for the program. Crop history is not a consideration for eligibility, but cropland fields do receive a higher score during the ranking process. Upland may be included in the easement area, but can't exceed 50% of total enrollment area. Once an application is accepted for a potential contact, NRCS will extend the landowner an easement compensation offer, says Sims. This is a set amount and is non-negotiable. NRCS provides landowners several weeks to consider the offer. Once the landowner accepts the offer, it may take up to a year for NRCS to record the easement and make the land value payment.
Landowners retain some property rights
Landowners retain several property rights after the land is placed under easement, he notes. These include control access and undeveloped recreational uses like hunting. The landowner must pay all property and other assessed taxes. NRCS acquires the authority to limit or restrict all other land uses. Restoration work under EWP-FPE includes seeding native plant communities, plugging drainage ditches, breaking tile lines, breaking diversions and breaching flood control levees. For more information on EWP-FPE please contact your local NRCS office or go to www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov.