Farmers and landowners committed to protecting and conserving environmentally sensitive land may sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that began on August 7.
CRP provides incentives to producers who utilize conservation methods on environmentally sensitive lands. For example, farmers are monetarily compensated for establishing long-term vegetative species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as “covers”) to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat. CREP contracts are approved for a 10 or 15-year contract.
The opportunities available to farmers and landowners under the CREP program are practical and flexible. Since the Virginia Farm Service Agency (FSA) began enrolling land in CREP in 2002, thousands of participating farmers and landowners made a commitment to protecting natural resources in Virginia by enrolling in CREP. The “enhanced” version of the national CRP program aims to improve Virginia’s water quality and wildlife habitat by offering financial incentives, cost-share and rental payments to farmers who voluntarily restore or create:
· Filter Strips · Riparian forest buffers
· Grass and shrub buffers · Wetlands
CREP helps producers overcome financial barriers of buffer projects and grazing systems by providing financial incentives and cost-share reimbursement for expenses; including costs for associated components such as:
· Wells · Pipeline
· Watering Troughs/Fountains · Livestock Stream Crossings
· Hardwood Tree Planting · Grass Cover Establishment.
– CREP provides an annual rental payment on the sacrificed buffer acres for a 10 or 15-year contract. Rental rates per acre for marginal pastureland are as follows:
• Botetourt $84.20
• Craig $85 to $95
• Roanoke $85 to $86.40.
– Federal cost-share is 50 percent and state cost-share is now 25 percent for a total cost-share of 75 percent for installation of practices.
– A signup incentive payment (SIP) of $100 per acre of buffer is issued at the time of contract approval.
– New incentive: There are also incentive payments for acreage in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed based on the average width of a planned forested riparian buffer ranging from $100 – $300 per acre and issued at the time of contract approval (Chesapeake Bay Incentive Payment). This incentive payment is available on a first-come, first-serve basis until funds are exhausted.
– A Practice Incentive Payment (PIP) is also issued after all practices have been completed which equals 80 percent of the total eligible cost-share payment. For hardwood tree planting, the Practice Incentive Payment is paid two years after the cover establishment.
CREP participants quickly realize that the program offers more than environmental benefit and peace of mind. Livestock producers see herd health benefits after excluding animals from natural water sources. A decreased instance of waterborne illness, improved rate of gain and overall production benefits are a few. Crop producers also enjoy economic benefit from removing marginal, shaded field borders from production and dedicating those acres to a conserving use. Overall input costs are reduced on enrolled acres.
Producers who decide to offer acreage for enrollment in CREP will benefit from technical assistance from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS helps CREP participants by assessing natural resources on the farm and helping to determine conservation objectives and make decisions.
Offers to enroll in CREP will be accepted at all FSA offices beginning August 7. There is a 24 million acre National cap for CRP/CREP acreage. Once the cap is reached, no further CRP/CREP offers may be accepted. Producers interested in CREP are encouraged to sign up now as acreage acceptance is very close to the cap acreage threshold. For more information on CREP and other FSA programs, visit a local FSA county office or go online to www.fsa.usda.gov.
The Botetourt/Craig/Roanoke FSA County Office can be contacted at 540-977-2698, Ext. 2. The office is located at the Bonsack USDA Service Center at 36 Executive Circle, Suite 1, Roanoke, VA.
-Submitted by C. Jean Hazlegrove