There are many programs available through the state and federal government that can assist private landowners with natural resource conservation on their land. The following are brief descriptions of these programs managed by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
The Conservation Reserve Program offers long term rental payments and cost share assistance to establish permanent vegetative cover on cropland that is highly erodible or contributing serious water quality problem. Through approved contract bids to convert eligible land to permanent cover, farm owners or operators receive annual rental payments at a rate not to exceed prevailing local rental rate per acre of comparable land. Acreage offered for enrollment is evaluated for environmental benefits and contract costs to determine which offers are accepted into the program. The acreage most likely to be accepted is generally land that provides the highest environmental benefits for the lowest cost. Rental payments may be provided up to 15 years for hardwood trees, wildlife corridors, windbreaks, or shelterbelts; however most payments are limited to 10 years.
The “continuous” sign-up CRP offers a noncompetitive enrollment of the most environmentally sensitive areas, and provides for annual rental payments and cost share for establishing practices such as filter strips along streams, grassed waterways, riparian buffers, field windbreaks, etc.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was established in the 1996 Farm Bill, to provide a voluntary conservation program for farmers who face serious threats to soil, water, and related natural resources. EQIP offers financial, educational and technical help to install or implement structural, vegetative, and management practices called for in 5- to 10-year contracts. Cost share rates are established to cover the majority of the costs of certain conservation practices. Eligibility is limited to persons who are engaged in livestock or agricultural production which includes forest lands. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, forestland, and other farm or ranch lands where the program is delivered. Read more about our EQIP Program at this link.
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary program to restore wetlands. Landowners who choose to participate in WRP may sell a conservation easement or enter into a cost-share restoration agreement with USDA to restore and protect wetlands. The landowner voluntarily limits future use of land, yet retains private ownership. The program offers landowners three options: permanent easements, 30 year easements, and restoration cost-share agreements of a minimum 10-year duration. To be eligible, the landowner must have owned the land for one year, and the land must be restorable and be suitable for wildlife benefits.
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)
The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private lands. It provides technical assistance to help establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat through implementation of practices such as establishment of conservation cover; tree/shrub plantings; riparian forest buffer establishment; livestock exclusion and others.
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
CREP is a federal-state natural resources conservation program that addresses agricultural-related environmental concerns at the state and national level. CREP participants receive financial incentives to voluntarily enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in contracts of 14 to 15 years. Participants remove cropland from agricultural production and convert the land to native grasses, trees and other vegetation.
For more information on conservation programs available to you, contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District or NRCS office.
If you are in Greene County, you can contact Tammy Swihart, NRCS District Conservationist or Suzie Strietelmeier, FSA County Executive Director.