BLUE EARTH - Applications are being taken for the RIM Riparian Buffer Conservation Easements, Shane Johnson told Faribault County commissioners Tuesday.
Johnson, county feedlot officer, said landowners can visit the Soil and Water Conservation District office at the Ag Center to apply.
"Every Soil and Water District had to put in a request to the state and get it approved," he said.
Six million dollars is available in the first two years of the program, Johnson said, adding that each district has a $1 million cap. Signup is continuous until the money is used up. The program is open to everyone countywide.
The program targets existing buffer strips along drainage ditches, rivers and wetlands in existing or expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts, said Johnson, adding that CRP is a federal ag program.
Employees at Soil and Water will help landowners look up their property on the computer to see the lay of the land, he said. They also coordinate the process through the Natural Resources Conservation Service to get CRP contract information, including the width of the buffer strip and contract numbers.
It's quite a bit of work, Johnson conceded, but the program is perpetual.
"Once enrolled, they're in forever," he said. "They get the easement payment rate on top of the CRP contract."
The average payment per acre in Faribault County is $8,300, based on a 15-year CRP contract and spread out over those 15 years, Johnson said.
Each county gets a list from the Board of Water and Soil Resources listing the payment rates, which vary by location, according to land sale prices, Johnson said.
In other business Tuesday, commissioners voted to refund the jail bonds and one drainage issue.
"Refunding the jail bonds will save us $1.1 million" before subtracting the negative arbitrage, said Auditor John Thompson. He cited low interest rates as a compelling reason to make the move now.
"Savings will be $80,000 a year on the levy, beginning in 2014" giving taxpayers a break, he said, noting the savings on the ditch issue will not be that large.
On other topics, the board:
o Reviewed its meeting schedule. The first meeting in December has been changed to Thursday, Dec. 6. The meeting on Dec. 18 has been moved to 4 p.m. and will precede the Truth in Taxation meeting at 6 p.m. Since the first meeting of 2013 falls on Jan. 1, the board voted to postpone it to Wednesday, Jan. 2.
o Approved a liquor license for the Derby Inn. Ownership of the business has changed, reported Thompson, but the license doesn't change with it. The new license, which has no changes from the previous one, was granted to Steven and Daniel Ricard.