Idaho irrigators may be able to leave pivot corners and other lands untilled and unplanted and be able to receive as much as $118 an acre for doing so.
The USDA Farm Service Agency is looking at the possibility of doing just that in planning a conservation reserve ehnancement program for Idaho.
Many growers just barely making it through the fifth year of drought, will be able to leave land idle, plant grass and shrubs on the corners which do not need as much water as crops, creating habitat for birds and wildlife. This would free up extra water for other uses.
The plan was unveiled Tuesday in Arco as the Lost River Valley has been particularly hard hit by drought and a lack of irrigation water.
While the plan has its benefits, Wayne Hammon, state executive director of the Idaho agency, told more than 100 growers in attendance that they will not lose the ground they set aside.
If growers choose to participate they will sign 15-year contracts. Besides the $118 an acre for set-aside ground, the federal government would pay at least half the cost of planting of grasses and brush to make the land suitable for wildlife habitat.
Hammon said the program would need legislative approval next year. If Idaho becomes a player in the federal program, agencies like the Idaho Department of Water Resources will help with monitoring.
Mike Keckoer, spokesman for the IDWA, said the program will be one way to help replenish the aquifer.
If the legislature agrees, growers should be able to sign up in 2006 before spring planting. Hammon said there would be a 100,000-acre limit statewide.