Valley growers eligible for irrigation, nutrient management assistance

WESLACO — Agricultural producers and landowners in Willacy, Cameron and Hidalgo counties may be eligible for financial assistance to improve irrigation systems and implement other conservation practices, according to personnel at the Texas Water Resources Institute.

The institute is part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.

Assistance for growers and landowner to improve their irrigation and soil nutrients is available through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (TWRI photo by Victor Gutierrez)

Financial assistance to growers and landowners for irrigation and conservation improvements is available through a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s NRCS. (TWRI photo by Victor Gutierrez)

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Water Improvement Initiative, a five-year, $3 million partnership effort led by the institute, is funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The assistance is provided through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service program.

“Ag producers and landowners in the Valley can apply at any time for these funds, but to be eligible for this year’s allocations, they are encouraged to apply by March 18,” said Dr. Kevin Wagner, deputy director of the water institute. “They should contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Service or Soil and Water Conservation District offices to find out how to apply for RCPP funding, the best management practices they are eligible for and more information.”

Additional funds will be available each of the next four years for Valley agricultural producers and landowners to install and maintain conservation practices that improve on-farm efficiency, Wagner said.

“The Lower Rio Grande Valley is experiencing significant population growth, which puts greater pressure on the limited water supplies and increases the need for improved irrigation efficiency,” he said. “Along with the limited supplies, degraded water quality necessitates improved conservation as well. Although addressing water quantity is the primary concern, the importance of water quality and quantity are inseparable and intricately linked in the Valley.”

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the initiative encompasses 1.6 million acres in Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties and includes the lower Rio Grande, Arroyo Colorado and north Floodway.

Wagner said examples of conservation practices eligible for funding include land leveling; installation of drip, sprinkler or microspray irrigation systems; soil testing; implementation of surge valves; use of narrow border flood irrigation on citrus and other practices to conserve soil and water resources.

AgriLife Extension is providing education programs on irrigation management, nutrient management and water resource issues as part of the initiative, Wagner said.

For more information on available RCPP funding, producers and landowners in the three counties should call the San Benito Service Center at 956-399-2522 and/or visit their nearest Natural Resources Conservation Service field office, located in Edinburg, San Benito and Raymondville.  

For more information on the partnership and its activities, contact Wagner at 979-845-2649 and klwagner@ag.tamu.edu or Victor Gutierrez, the institute’s AgriLife Extension assistant in Weslaco, at 956-969-5615 or victor.gutierrez@ag.tamu.edu.

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