What about farmers that are farming from the river bottoms?
Farmers who grow crops on land that is in the floodplain of a river or stream do so because it is most often very productive land. Typically all or part of these crop fields will flood once every 4-5 years and often the flooding occurs early enough in the spring that there is still time to plant a crop after the flood waters reside. The owners of these fields pay taxes on their property so they crop them or rent them out to be cropped in order to return a profit to the farm operation and /or help pay the mortgage and taxes on the land.
We are pleased to report that there is now a Federal conservation program available to compensate landowners who stop farming floodplain cropland through the purchase of a conservation easement on the land by the Federal government. The easement requires the landowner to discontinue crop production and restore the land to its natural state. There are specific eligibility requirements on frequency of flooding of the land that must be met to be eligible for this easement program. There has been a number of floodplain cropland fields enrolled in this program over the last few years. The money gained from the easement serves to offset the loss of crop sales that were unreliable on that land to begin with.
There are also USDA and State incentive programs available to encourage farmers to plant riparian tree buffers, filter strip, and to restore wetlands in these areas. These practices can reduce runoff, erosion and restore habitat in these areas and farmers are enrolling in these programs.
You can get more information on all of these programs by contacting your local USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service Office.
Jim Lake, IN State Department of Agriculture