The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is being expanded to incorporate new opportunities. USDA announced that it will be leveraging its authority to expand the program and ultimately provide more access to voluntary conservation activities for farmers and landowners. Program standards pertaining to matching fund requirements have been updated after incorporating input from state agencies, producers, and other stakeholder groups. USDA has also invested in additional personnel to provide assistance to program participants and help streamline conservation efforts.
“CREP is one of the most flexible tools we have for locally-driven, partner-led efforts to reward producers and drive important environmental and climate outcomes,” Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said in a press release. “We look forward to working with new, diverse partners who can shape CRP to address priorities most important to them and to local communities, from water quality and conservation to wildlife habitat and climate outcomes. The CREP changes in this rule will remove barriers and provide partners with increased flexibility to participate in this powerful program.”
The changes to the program will allow partners to use cash, in-kind contributions, or technical assistance when providing their matching funds. Partners will also now have a negotiated level of matching funds under the recent rule change. Historically, 50 percent of matchings funds were to be provided in the form of direct payments. The previous system made it difficult for certain groups to participate in the program. Changes to the program were enacted through a rule in the Federal Register which should increase flexibility and opportunity for additional participation.
FSA is taking a regional approach to program administration. The new team members who will be working with potential and existing partners include Patrick Lewis, who will be covering the western states including California and Arizona. CREP currently has 34 existing projects in 26 states with more than 860,000 acres enrolled.