January 5, 2005 – Posted at 4:26 p.m. CST
CRAIGHEAD COUNTY -- Some Arkansas farmers may receive money from the federal government to not plant crops this year.
"We have estimated that this an 8-10 million dollar program for Arkansas alone. That's a significant amount of money for habitat restoration," said David Long of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.
The program is called Continuous Practice 33 and it's designed to help Arkansas' declining quail population.
"Quail has had a major problem over the last couple of decades," said Long, "This is really going to be our last, one of our major last efforts to restore quail on agricultural landscapes."
Row crop farmers will be able to designate a portion of their farmland to create a habitat for wildlife.
"A lot of incentives go with this package. It's providing 10-year rental payments, based on their soil types. They also have a $100 dollar up front incentive payment they get for each acre they enroll," said Long.
Farmers will also get a 90% cost share for planting costs. But they won't be allowed to just let their fields grow up. They'll be required to plant grasses and shrubs to restore the native wildlife habitat. And Long says it's something that benefits both people and wildlife.
"There's something in the spring when the quail start sounding that really touches our heartstrings. It's going to be a sad state of affairs, I think, in Arkansas, in the Delta here if we loose that call of the Bobwhite," said Long.
For farmers to qualify for the program, they must have farmed the land for at least four years between 1996 and 2001.