USDA ENROLLS ONE MILLIONTH ACRE IN CONSERVATION RESERVE ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2008 - Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner today announced that USDA has enrolled the one millionth acre in its nationwide Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The one millionth acre is in Minnesota; the first CREP acre was enrolled in Maryland in 1997.
Conner made the announcement at USDA Headquarters at a ceremony where Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Teresa Lasseter and other USDA officials, Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA), Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN), landowners of the first and one millionth CREP acres, CREP partners and others gathered to celebrate the achievement. Congressman Holden is Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research. Congressman Walz represents the district where the one millionth CREP acre was enrolled.
"Enrolling the one millionth acre is an important milestone in the history of USDA's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program," said Conner. "By collaborating with agricultural producers, state agencies and many other partners through this highly effective program, USDA is improving water quality, wildlife habitat, soil productivity and air quality throughout the country today and for the next generation."
Last fall, when Steve and Margaret Lange enrolled 60 acres in CREP at the Pipestone County FSA Service Center in Pipestone, Minn., USDA's CREP surpassed the one million acre mark. The 60 acres were part of a 120,000-acre CREP project in parts of northwest, southeast and southwestern Minnesota. The Langes established riparian buffers and filter strips to protect Pipestone Creek, which winds through the couple's property, by reducing sediment and erosion from the current. In addition, the conservation practices reduce flooding impacts, enhance wildlife and improve overall water quality. The Langes are part of the highly successful efforts in Minnesota to protect water quality in the Missouri River watershed and restore wildlife habitat.
Anna Bowers, who signed the first CREP agreement with USDA on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, also participated in today's ceremony. This CREP addresses nutrient loading in the Chesapeake Bay through the use of buffers and wetland restoration. Ms. Bowers planted 16.7 acres of trees on her family farm which reduced the amount of both sediment and nutrients that entered the Bay.
CREP is a community-based, results-oriented effort that focuses on local participation and leadership. A component of USDA's Conservation Reserve Program, CREP is a voluntary land retirement program that helps agricultural producers protect environmentally sensitive land, decrease erosion, restore wildlife habitat and safeguard ground and surface water. Partnering with tribal, state and federal governments and, in some cases, private groups, USDA establishes contracts with agricultural producers to retire highly erodible and other sensitive cropland and pastureland. During the 10- to 15-year contract period, participants convert enrolled land to grass, trees, wetlands, wildlife cover and other conservation uses. CREP supports increased conservation practices such as filter strips and forested buffers, which help protect streams, lakes and rivers from sedimentation and agricultural runoff.
Through CREP, USDA partners with states, agricultural producers, non-government organizations and many others to protect the Chesapeake Bay, New York City's drinking water supply, Kentucky's Mammoth Cave, salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest, the Illinois and Minnesota Rivers, and numerous other ecologically sensitive areas. CREP maintains clear goals and requires annual monitoring, enabling participants to measure progress and ensure success. By combining USDA's Conservation Reserve Program resources with state, tribal and private programs, CREP provides farmers and ranchers with a sound financial package for conserving and enhancing natural resources.
Under the Conservation Reserve Program, farmers and ranchers enroll eligible land in 10- to 15-year contracts with USDA. Participants plant appropriate cover such as grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams. These plantings help prevent soil and nutrients from running into regional waterways and affecting water quality. The long-term vegetative cover also improves wildlife habitat and soil quality.