LONDON, Ohio – At last week’s Farm Science Review, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and the USDA highlighted increased provisions and enhancements to the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
The Lake Erie CREP is a voluntary program that uses financial incentives to encourage farmers and landowners in 27 northwest Ohio counties to protect their land by establishing grass buffer strips, tree plantings and wetland conservation practices along the lake’s tributary streams.
Not a new CREP. USDA initially authorized the Lake Erie CREP sign-up on May 1, 2000. Early producer sign-up was brisk, but due to a reduction in the state matching funds, producer enrollment declined, according to John Stevenson, state executive director for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Ohio.
The Lake Erie CREP now provides an estimated $220 million in conservation funding through a federal, state and local partnership.
More flexibility. Program changes will offer farmers and landowners in the Lake Erie watershed more flexibility in contract lengths and additional financial incentives for planting trees. Some highly erodible land, not previously eligible for the program, will now be included.
And a special enhancement for landowners in the Tiffin and Blanchard river watersheds will reward those individuals who work together to establish contiguous riparian corridors along major streams and tributaries.
Stevenson said the program now offers higher incentive rates for grass plantings, wetlands and tree practices.
The Lake Erie CREP was Ohio’s first CREP, originating in the spring of 2000. Since then, more than 5,500 northwest Ohio farmers and landowners have enrolled and established more than 25,500 acres of conservation practices in the lake’s watershed.
Additional CREP programs have been established in recent years for the Upper Big Walnut Creek and the Scioto River watersheds.
Learn more. Farmers and landowners interested in signing up for the Lake Erie CREP program should contact their county Farm Service Agency office, or visit www.fsa.usda.gov/.
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