SPRINGFIELD — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the State of Illinois are resuming a partnership with enrollment opening on Wednesday.
The partnership through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) assists Illinois farmers, ranchers, and agricultural landowners in improving water quality and natural resource conservation.
The Illinois CREP is offered by the USDA and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). It expands the voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs available to Illinois agricultural producers. It also focuses on the Illinois and Kaskaskia River watersheds.
“CREP is one of our most flexible tools when it comes to voluntary, locally-led, partner-driven conservation efforts. We’re so glad that we’re able to put it to work again in Illinois,” said Scott Halpin, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Illinois State Director. “This initiative previously had a positive impact in Illinois. We look forward to broadening the reach of the program to new agricultural producers and landscapes. We are so grateful to have support from Illinois leaders to make this program possible.”
“Programs like CREP provide critical support to private landowners who want to implement sound conservation practices on their property,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan. “These efforts help reduce runoff, protect our precious soil and improve wildlife habitat.”
Rental payments, benefits for participation
Federal and state resources are available to program participants voluntarily enrolling in the CRP program for a term up to 15 years. The state also requires a similar 15-year enrollment or a permanent conservation easement.
Participants will remove cropland and marginal pastureland from agricultural production. They will then convert the land to grasses, trees, or other approved vegetation. Therefore, this improves water quality by reducing sediment, nutrient runoff, nitrogen, and other pollutants from entering streams and rivers. Moreover, it will also enhance the wildlife habitat within the project area.
FSA provides rental payments and cost-sharing assistance in return because of participation. Meanwhile, in addition, Illinois will provide a cost-share match in addition to a one-time payment. The payment will be for all land put in an easement as a result.
Example of conversion practices for CREP program
For instance, conversion practices include the implementation and/or planting of:
- permanent native grasses
- hardwood trees
- permanent wildlife habitats, including shallow waterways
- filter strips and riparian buffers
- floodplain and non-floodplain wetland restorations
- rare, declining habitats for prairie and oak savanna ecosystems
“We are excited to work with IDNR and offer this great watershed conservation incentive for Illinois farmers,” Halpin said. “Working together, we can lead the way through climate-smart solutions that will maintain critical environmental benefits through voluntary conservation efforts. It will increase climate resilience, sequester more carbon, enhance agricultural productivity, and improve water quality in Illinois and Kaskaskia River watersheds and downstream.”
USDA to service 68 Illinois counties in the CREP program
The program includes all or portions of the following 68 counties in the Illinois and Kaskaskia River watersheds.
In conclusion. farmers, ranchers, and agricultural landowners with an interest in participating should contact the FSA. The FSA can be found at their local USDA Service Center to learn more or to participate.
Portions of this article include content from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Farm Service Agency in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
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