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Funds available to establish buffer strips

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HARTINGTON — The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has funding available through the Nebraska Buffer Strip Program to assist landowners in establishing buffer strips. Buffers provide an area to slow down water from rain events allowing suspended sediment and chemicals to drop out before reaching surface water bodies. Landowners are paid to enroll existing cropland adjacent to perennial and seasonal streams, ponds, and wetlands into the program. The funds used to pay landowners are collected from fees assessed on sales of registered pesticides.

There are two types of buffers that are eligible for funding. The first is filter strips, which are narrow strips of grass planted along water bodies. The second is riparian forest buffers, which consist of grass, trees and shrubs and also adjacent to water bodies. The minimum and maximum eligible width for filter strips is 20 and 120 feet respectively. The minimum and maximum eligible width for riparian buffers is 55 and 180 feet respectively. Rental rates are variable, and payments cannot exceed $250 per acre.

The Department of Agriculture’s Buffer Program has fewer restrictions for haying and grazing than with some USDA conservation rental programs. This can be an enticing benefit for landowners with cattle operations. The program can also be used in conjunction with the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or Conservation Enhancement Program (CREP) if desired. More information is available on Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture’s website at bit. ly/NDAbuffer.

Consider enrolling your cropland acres that border streams, ponds, or wetlands as buffer strips. Rental rates are competitive and there are countless benefits for wildlife, water quality and soil health. If you are interested in establishing a new buffer strip or wish to renew a current buffer strip contact your local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Office.