Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)

An offspring of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), CREP is a voluntary program for agricultural landowners.  Unique state and federal partnerships allow you to receive incentive payments for installing specific conservation practices. Through the CREP, farmers can receive annual rental payments and
cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible land.

----------------Questions & Answers (July 17, 2000)-----------------
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)

1.  What is the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program?

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program or CREP (pronounced krep) is a joint, state-federal land retirement conservation program targeted to address State and nationally significant agriculture-related environmental effects.  This voluntary program uses financial incentives to encourage farmers and ranchers to enroll in contracts of 10 to 15 years in duration to remove lands from agricultural production.  It is authorized pursuant to the 1996 Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act.

2.  What are the objectives of CREP?

The two primary objectives of CREP are: to coordinate Federal and non-federal resources to address specific conservation objectives of a State and the nation in a cost-effective manner, and to improve water quality, erosion control and wildlife habitat related to agricultural use in specific geographic areas. 

3.  What are the benefits of CREP and how does it differ from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)?

There are four important ways in which CREP differs from CRP. First, CREP is targeted to specific geographic areas.  It is designed to focus conservation practices on addressing specific environmental concerns of a high priority.

Second, CREP is a joint undertaking among States, the Federal government and other stakeholders who have an interest in addressing particular environmental issues.  Third, it is results-oriented, and requires states to establish measurable objectives and conduct annual monitoring to measure progress toward implementation of those objectives.  Fourth, it is flexible, within existing legal constraints, and can be adapted to meet local conditions on the ground.

4.  How many acres are going to be included in the CREP program?

CREP is just one aspect of the overall CRP program. Congress has authorized inclusion of up to 36.4 million acres in the conservation reserve program.  Pursuant to the 15th and 16th general sign-ups of CRP, the Department of Agriculture anticipates executing 10-15 year contracts on approximately 23 million acres.  Another 4 million acres have been set aside for establishment of conservation buffers.  The balance of the authorized acreage will be allocated for CREP and for future general signups as existing contracts
expire.  The Department of Agriculture anticipates that much of the land in the CREP program would also meet the criteria for designation under the stream buffer initiative.  Initially, the Agriculture Department has decided to limit the size of the CREP program within each state to 100,000 acres. 
States may submit multiple proposals so long as the total area does not
exceed 100,000 acres.  The Department will monitor this ceiling and determine
if future adjustments are necessary. 

5.  What are the legal requirements for producer participation in a CREP project? 

Participant and land eligibility requirements under CREP are the same as for CRP.  The land must have been owned or operated by the applicant for the previous 12 months and must have been planted in crops 2 of the last 5 years and be physically and legally capable of being planted in a normal manner.

6.  How much will a farmer be paid to participate in the CREP program? 

The average cost of the conservation reserve program nationwide is about $43 per acre per year.  However the actual amount farmers will be paid to participate in CREP is highly variable, since it is largely related to local land rental rates.  The methodology for determining the total amount to be paid to farmers considers the following: base rental rate, cost of installation of conservation practices, annual maintenance costs and any special incentives.  The base rental rate is the average dry land cash rental rate based on the three predominant soil types of the land.  The Department of Agriculture maintains this information on a county by county basis for the entire country.  The Federal government will pay for up to 50 percent of the
cost of installing the conservation practices on the land (e.g. planting trees and grass).  The Federal government will also pay a nominal annual maintenance fee (generally $5 per acre).  Finally, the Federal government may make special one-time or annual incentive payments to encourage participation in the program.  For example, the Federal government pays a 20 percent annual bonus above the rental payment for certain high priority practices such as installation of filter strips and riparian buffers.  States and other program participants may provide other funding to further encourage participation in the program.

7.  How has CREP been designed to be convenient for producers to participate?

Local support, especially from producers, is key to the success of the CREP program.  Simply stated, without support from producers, translated as participation in the program, project objectives will not be achieved.  The CREP program is convenient for producers since it is based on the familiar CRP model.  It works in a manner similar to the continuous signup CRP where producers can sign up at any time.  Like most of the other agriculture conservation programs administered by the Agriculture Department,
participation in CREP is voluntary.  The Department of Agriculture will work with State agencies to simplify the program administration process and reduce the paperwork burden on producers.

8. What is the process for development of a CREP proposal?

The Agriculture Department anticipates that CREP proposals will be locally developed.  Agency guidelines encourage involvement of the full range of state, local and Federal agencies, as well as producers and other affected stakeholders in proposal development.  The CREP proposal would be submitted to the Agriculture Department by the Governor.  The Agriculture Department will convene an interagency panel to review the proposal.  The comments of the panel will be forwarded to the State for consideration in the development of a final proposal which will be set forth in a Memorandum of Agreement between the Governor and the Secretary of Agriculture. 

9.  What level of non-federal funding is required for State participation in the CREP program?

The CREP program is intended to be a partnership program among the Federal and State governments and other program participants.  The Department of Agriculture expects non-federal partners to provide a significant commitment, such as 20 percent, toward the overall cost of the program.  Some latitude is provided to states in determining how to measure their contribution.  States may count funds such as additional cost-share assistance, a lump sum bonus payment, monitoring, technical assistance and/or long term easements.

10.  What is the current status of the CREP program?

Early indicators are that there is a relatively high level of interest in this program from States and producers.  In October 1997, Agriculture Secretary Glickman signed a memorandum of agreement with the Governor of Maryland to establish the first CREP.  This 100,000-acre program is designed to protect the water quality of Chesapeake Bay by reducing nutrient loading.  The overall program is projected to cost about $200 million over 15 years.  In February 1998, the Department signed a CREP agreement with the Governor of Minnesota to address water quality and wildlife issues along the Minnesota River. 

11.  Do CREP proposals have to be consistent with existing laws and policies pertaining to CRP.

Yes.  CREP proposals must be consistent with all legislative and regulatory aspects of CRP.

12.  Who administers the CREP?

Like CRP, CREP is administered within the Department of Agriculture by the Farm Service Agency.

13.  Where can I find out more information about the CREP program?

Contact any county Department of Agriculture Service Center.