The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) renewed their commitment to the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) projects. ODA and ODNR are offering incentives to farmers and landowners to enroll new acres, or maintain existing acres, into conservation practices.
CREP aims to reduce sediment and nutrient loading into the Lake Erie Watershed and the Scioto River Watershed. The program’s goals complement Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, focused on improving water quality statewide.
“The administration, ODA, and ODNR know how important the CREP program is to Ohio in meeting statewide water quality and conservation goals, said Dorothy Pelanda, ODA Director. “The incentives provided are effective ways to help boost proven conservation initiatives in our state.”
Under the new agreements, ODA is offering a $500 per acre one-time incentive payment for newly enrolled filter strips and grassland practices. For acres being reenrolled into wetland, filter strips and grassland practices, ODA is providing a $250 per acre one-time incentive payment.
A new state incentive will also be available for landowners to install saturated buffers. Saturated buffers help retain subsurface water flow and allow nutrients within the soil to be absorbed by vegetation.
“This program gives farmers a chance to benefit from their conservation efforts and ultimately contribute to a better future for Ohio,” said Mary Mertz, ODNR Director. “The CREP program encourages farmers to better use their land, while allowing us to protect soil and water resources and vital wildlife habitat.”
Under the new agreements, ODNR is offering $2,000 per acre on wetlands and wooded riparian buffers in the Lake Erie CREP. In the Scioto CREP, the agency is offering $1,500 per acre one-time incentive payments on newly enrolled wetlands and wooded riparian buffers. These incentives are anticipated to help improve water quality.
ODA and ODNR will fund 20% of the effort and USDA FSA funds will cover the other 80%.
“The Lake Erie and Scioto River Watershed CREP projects could not be maintained without the support and commitment of our partners,” said John Patterson, the Ohio USDA FSA State Executive Director. “CREP enables our partners to shape CRP to be site-specific and to address local priorities, from water quality and conservation to wildlife habitat and climate outcomes. Bottom line, partnerships are critical to expanding our reach to producers, and we want to take CREP in Ohio to the next level. I highly encourage landowners in the Ohio CREP project areas to take a serious look at this very beneficial conservation opportunity.”
CREP is a part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the country’s largest private-land conservation program. Administered by the USDA (FSA), CREP leverages federal and non-federal funds to target specific state, regional, or nationally significant conservation concerns.
“At NRCS, we believe in locally led conservation,” said John Wilson, Ohio NRCS State Conservationist. “By working with our partners through programs such as CREP, we are able to deliver comprehensive landscape solutions to producers and landowners to ensure the sustainability of Ohio’s agriculture and protection of the state’s natural resources.”
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) supports CREP through technical assistance. NRCS staff work one-on-one with landowners to conduct site visits and create site-specific conservation plans to increase natural resource protection.
Ohio is one of few states that have more than one CREP project. The Lake Erie and Scioto River Watershed CREP projects account for close to 50% of the total CRP acres in Ohio. Nearly 52,000 acres are enrolled through the Lake Erie CREP, and more than 59,000 acres are enrolled into the Scioto River Watershed CREP.