The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the State of Montana recently finalized changes to the provisions of the Missouri and Madison River Corridor Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA).
“This amendment provides flexibility for Montana farmers and ranchers to establish additional cover and increase land stewardship along the 524-mile river corridor,” said FSA Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs Juan Garcia. “The Montana CREP program encourages the development of conservation buffers adjacent to the Madison and Missouri rivers that are designed to improve water quality and enhance wildlife.”
USDA implemented the federal-state-private partnership in 2003 to target 26,000 acres in Blaine, Broadwater, Cascade, Chouteau, Fergus, Gallatin, Lewis & Clark, Madison and Phillips counties. CREP is another option under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that agricultural producers may use to establish conservation practices on their land. Producers can enroll in CREP at any time. Per-acre annual rental payments are at a higher effective rate than offered under a general CRP signup.
“Farmers and ranchers from these nine Montana counties who are interested in enrolling land into the CREP program should call or visit their local FSA county office,” said Acting FSA Montana State Executive Director Dick Deschamps.
Montana farmers and ranchers are encouraged to voluntarily convert eligible cropland and marginal pastureland to native grasses, legumes, forbs, shrubs and trees. In return, they receive annual rental payments and other incentives.
The Montana CREP objectives are to lower water temperatures, increase dissolved oxygen in river water and provide additional wildlife habitat. The program helps protect the blue ribbon trout habitat of the Madison and Missouri rivers and provides homes for a number of wildlife species.
Cropland must meet CRP’s cropping history criteria, which includes one-year ownership and it must be physically and legally capable of being cropped. Marginal pastureland is also eligible for enrollment provided it is suitable for use as an eligible riparian buffer. Persons who have an existing CRP contract or an approved offer with a contract pending are not eligible for CREP until that contract expires.
The amendment changes conservation practice 22 (CP 22), the Riparian Buffer practice. It now allows for natural regeneration, provided the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or a technical service provider determines that under normal conditions appropriate cover will be established within five years of the effective beginning date of the CRP contract. At the end of and/or during the 5-year period, cost share assistance may be used to complete the riparian buffer’s missing components needed to achieve program objectives, including wildlife habitat.
For marginal pastureland within the flood plain area adjacent to a perennial stream or permanent water body where natural vegetation is primarily a mixture of grasses, shrubs and forbs and is otherwise eligible according to FSA National Directives, the base soil rental rate is $50 per acre.
Producers enrolling acres in CP22 also may be eligible for:
1. an incentive of 40 percent of the applicable marginal pastureland rate,
2. a $2, $4 or $5 maintenance rate per acre depending on whether fencing or water facilities are developed,
3. a one-time Signing Incentive Payment (SIP), which can be issued once the CRP contract is approved, (The SIP is equal to $10 per acre times the number of acres enrolled for each full year times 10 years. For example, a 10-year seven-month CREP contract on five acres of land would be eligible for a $500 SIP payment. A partial CREP contract year and re-enrolled CRP acres do not earn a SIP.),
4. and a one-time Practice Incentive Payment (PIP), which is equal to 40 percent of the total eligible cost of practice installation. (The PIP cannot exceed 100 percent of the producer’s out-of-pocket cost. The PIP is in addition to the up to 50 percent cost share available to CRP participants for establishment of a practice.)
In 2011, USDA enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and prevent soil erosion.