Michigan’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was created to help protect our environment and wildlife. Michigan is partnering with the federal government to implement conservation practices of great significance to the state, and valuable to the nation, in matters of soil erosion, water quality, and wildlife habitat.
CREP is founded upon the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), yet differs from the CRP by offering enhanced financial incentives for participants. In Michigan’s CREP, farmers and other landowners in priority watershed areas agree to enroll eligible parcels of land in the program for 15 years, and establish prescribed conservation practices.
In return, landowners receive cost-share assistance in establishing conservation practices. Approved practices include riparian buffers, field windbreaks, filter strips, wetland restoration, shallow-water wildlife areas, controlled livestock access and conservation easements.
The program offers significant financial advantages. For example, "Jim" heard about Michigan’s CREP and stopped in at his local Farm Service Agency for a *no-obligation assessment of 10 acres of land he believed to be suitable for the program. CREP representatives determined that the land was eligible, and Jim enrolled in the program.
*Conservation District representatives or USDA employees will conduct free land evaluations, answer questions, and provide information for prospective enrollees.
Jim decided to put in a *filter strip, and purchased seed, fertilizer, equipment and labor. He spent $70 per acre for the following return on his investment:
- The federal government will reimburse 50 percent of his cost per acre.
- Michigan will reimburse the remaining 50 percent of his cost per acre.
- The federal government will provide an incentive payment of 40 percent of his cost per acre.
*Areas of grasses, legumes or other vegetation that filter runoff or waste water by trapping sediment, pesticides, organic matter, or other pollutants. Filter strips are established on cropland at the lower edge of a field or adjacent to a body of water.
Once the practice is established, Jim will receive annual payments, from the federal government and from the state, for the 15-year period. Payments will be based upon the *soil rental rate (SRR) in the area. Jim’s rate is $60 per acre.
*SRR can vary from county to county, and even within counties. The rate is determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
The federal government will pay 140 percent of Jim’s SRR, ($84 per acre) plus a $5 per acre maintenance allowance. Ultimately, Jim reaps $89 per acre, per year for 15 years…earning $13,350. Jim will also receive a one time signing bonus of $150 per acre. For his original $700 investment, Jim will receive more than $15,400 over the next 15 years.
Michigan’s CREP will be the largest voluntary environmental improvement program in the state’s history, initially involving 80,000 acres of land in three watershed areas, which will be dedicated to conservation practices. CREP will be key in reducing non-point source pollution in rural areas. The program will:
- Protect Michigan’s lakes, rivers, ponds and streams
- Filter runoff water of silt, pesticides and other pollutants
- Replenish water tables
- Protect topsoil from erosion
- Enhance wildlife habitat
- Encourage wildlife diversity
- Reduce flooding
- Increase oxygen levels
The benefits of Michigan’s CREP go beyond the state’s borders by helping to maintain the purity of the Great Lakes, which make up 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater. The Great Lakes aesthetic, environmental and commercial value are vitally important to the entire region, and the nation.
CREP priority areas include the Lake Macatawa, River Raisin, and Saginaw Bay Watersheds. Eligible land must have a cropping history of four (4) out of six (6) years (1996-2001).
Selected land within Michigan’s CREP priority watersheds are eligible for the program. Property owners in these counties are strongly encouraged to take part. In some counties, eligible priority zones are limited to certain areas. The local Farm Service Agency can help landowners identify suitable parcels of land.
Eligible watershed counties include:
* Indicates that only certain portions of these counties are eligible for the program.
CREP is a unique opportunity for everyone in Michigan with an eye to the future, offering financial benefits to landowners and a healthy environment for Michigan.