The US Department of Agriculture and the State of Illinois are resuming a partnership through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program or CREP to assist Illinois farmers, ranchers, and agricultural landowners in improving water quality and conserving other natural resources. The Illinois CREP expands conservation programs available to ag producers and focuses on the Illinois and Kaskaskia River watersheds. Enrollment opened on June 15th.
Scott Halpin, USDA Farm Service Agency State Director in Illinois, says that the program has had a positive impact in Illinois, and is looking to broaden the reach of the program to new ag producers and landscapes. CREP provides critical support to private landowners who want to implement conservation practices on their property. IDNR Director Colleen Callahan says that it helps reduce runoff, protects soil, and improves wildlife habits.
Federal and State resources are made available to program participants to voluntarily enroll in CRP for 14-15 year contracts and a 15-year or permanent conservation easement with the state. Participants will remove cropland and marginal pastureland from agricultural production and convert the land to grass, tree, or other vegetation. This will improve water quality by reducing sediment, nutrients, nitrogen, and other pollutants from entering streams and waterways. In return, the FSA will provide participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance along with Illinois providing a cost-share match and a one-time payment for all land entered into the easement.
The Illinois CREP includes 68 counties including Christian, Effingham, Montgomery, Moultrie, Shelby, Macon, and Macoupin. Interested farmers should contact the Farm Service Agency at farmers.gov/service-locator. CREP has 35 projects in 27 states that total more than 860,000 acres. To learn more about the work that the USDA is doing, visit www.usda.gov.