USDA Expands Conservation Partnerships Through Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) takes advantage of its powers under the Conservation reserve enhancement program (CREP) to attract new types of partners and ultimately expand voluntary conservation opportunities for agricultural producers and private landowners across the nation. In direct response to comments from state agencies, tribes, nonprofits, and other groups, USDA updated CREP’s rule regarding matching fund requirements and invested in staff. additional to work directly with partners for streamlined, partner-driven conservation efforts.
CREP is part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and enables USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), and its partners to co-invest in partner-led projects. CREP also plays an important role in USDA’s broader climate change strategy, bringing together producers, landowners and partners for climate-smart land management.
â¯ “CREP is one of the most flexible tools we have for locally-led, partner-led efforts to reward producers and drive significant environmental and climate outcomes,” FSA Administrator Zach said. Ducheneaux. âWe look forward to working with new and diverse partners who can shape CRP to meet the priorities most important to them and to local communities, from water quality and conservation to wildlife habitat and outcomes. climatic. CREP’s changes to this rule will remove barriers and provide partners with increased flexibility to participate in this powerful program. “
A December 6, 2019 rule required 50% of partner matching funds to be in the form of out-of-pocket payments, which made it more difficult for various types of groups to participate as partners in CREP. With this rule change, partners can now provide their negotiated level of matching funds in the form of cash, in-kind or technical assistance contributions. This change allows for greater flexibility and a greater possibility for additional partners to participate in the program.
This change was made through a Rule of 13 December 2021 in the Federal Register.
The rule also updated the policy to now provide a full annual rental rate to producers who are affected by state, tribal or local laws, ordinances and regulations that require a measure of resource conservation or environmental protection. . The previous rule reduced the rent paid to producers who were covered by these laws.
Additional capacity to support partners and producers
In order to implement these changes, the FSA hired three new CREP staff, using a regional approach to work closely with potential and existing partners and expand the availability of the program. Team members include:
Evelyn whitesides, focusing on Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Caribbean Region (Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands).
- Kim martin, focusing on Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Dakota of the South, Texas and Wisconsin.
- Patrick lewis, focusing on Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pacific Basin, Utah, l Washington State and Wyoming.
“We want to build capacity in order to better reach partners, including those with whom we may not have worked before,” said Ducheneaux. âWe are taking steps to reduce barriers to access and opportunities for historically underserved producers and landowners, and by engaging more partners, we are working with groups that provide a direct link to these communities. “
These investments in CREP staffing build on other recent FSA outreach and education efforts, including a $ 4.7 million investment announced this year Partner with organizations to provide outreach services and technical assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers on a variety of CCC and FSA programs, including conservation programs.
Currently, all of CREP’s partners are States; however, the FSA strongly encourages tribes and non-governmental organizations to consider partnerships. This program is an excellent vehicle for their conservation efforts.