Nebraska to Pay Farmers to Forego Irrigation

June 18, 2004

Nebraska state officials have devised a plan to pay farmers to not irrigate their land, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Using similar plans in California and Oregon as guides, Nebraska officials will be drafting water conservation legislation that they will submit for proposal later this year. They will be looking to the IU.S. Department of Agriculture to help fund the bill, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

"We're assuming that by the middle of next summer, [Lake] McConaughy would be completely dry," Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., told the Omaha World-Herald. "I don't know if anyone can afford to let that happen."

Lake McConaughy, which is frighteningly low after years of minimal rainfall, is the primary source of irrigation water for many of the farmers in the region.

The state hopes to remove 100,000 acres from irrigation in the Platte and Republican River valleys, Bobbie Kriz-Wickham, a policy analyst at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, told the Omaha World-Herald.

If the USDA approves the proposed plan, farmers probably would not see payments until 2005, about the same time Lake McConaughy would no longer be able to provide water for irrigation if current weather patterns persist, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

"I wish there was some way we could make it rain," Osborne said.

Source: Omaha World-Herald