USDA and the state of Kentucky have agreed to implement a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to restore up to 100,000 acres in south central Kentucky's Green River Watershed. Revitalizing this area will help protect Mammoth Cave National Park and the ecologically rich Green River.
CREP uses federal and state resources to safeguard environmentally sensitive land through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CREP provides financial incentives to encourage producers to voluntarily enroll in 10- to 15-year CRP contracts. Producers enrolled in CRP remove lands from agricultural production and plant grasses, trees, and other vegetation to improve water quality, soil, and wildlife habitat. CRP is authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended.
The Green River is one of North America's most diverse ecosystems and the most biologically abundant branch of the Ohio River System. The river flows unhindered for more than 100 miles through 8 counties and through Mammoth Cave National Park, the world's largest and most diverse cave system. The Kentucky CREP will ensure the long-term protection of water quality and habitat for a wide array of wildlife, including threatened and endangered species.
The goals of the Kentucky CREP are to:
Reduce by 10 percent the amount of sediment, pesticides, and nutrients entering the Green River and Mammoth Cave system by growing strips of grass and trees around streams and sinkholes;
- Protect wildlife habitat and populations, including threatened and endangered species;
- Restore riparian habitat along the Green River;
- Restore the subterranean ecosystem by targeting 1,000 high priority sinkholes.
The expected federal, state, and private cost over 15 years is more than $105 million. Of that amount, $88 million will come from the federal government and $17 million from Kentucky. This does not include costs that may be borne by producers. Kentucky will also provide financial incentives to extend the life of the program and will seek to buy permanent conservation easements. A private organization, the Nature Conservancy, while not a party to the Kentucky CREP agreement, is also expected to provide incentives to farmers to help ensure full participation in CREP.
Producers can offer land in the watershed below the Green River Lake Dam. This includes areas adjacent to streams, rivers, and sinkholes and other land that meet CREP eligibility requirements.
The CRP conservation practices approved for this program are:
- CP3A Hardwood Tree Planting
- CP4B Permanent Wildlife Habitat (corridors)
- CP4D Permanent Wildlife Habitat
- CP10 Grass Cover - Already Established
- CP11 Tree Cover - Already Established
Eligible producers can enroll in CREP through 14- to 15-year CRP contracts. Producers may extend the benefits of CREP through separate contracts with the state. Applicants must be able to offer eligible acreage and must satisfy the basic eligibility criteria for CRP. Land must be cropland that has been cropped 2 out of the past 5 years and is physically and legally capable of being cropped. Marginal pastureland is also eligible provided it is suitable for use as a riparian buffer planted to trees. Applicants must generally have owned or operated the land for at least one year prior to enrollment. Persons with an existing CRP contract or an approved offer with a contract pending are not eligible for CREP until that contract expires.
Kentucky CREP participants are eligible for four types of USDA payments:
- Signing Incentive Payment - a one-time payment of $140 to $150 per acre for land enrolled in a riparian buffer practice, filter strip, or grassed waterway. USDA makes this payment soon after the contract has been signed.
- Practice Incentive Payment - payment equal to about 40 percent of the total cost for establishing the riparian buffer practice, filterstrip, or grassed waterway practice. This payment is in addition to the 50 percent cost share assistance that USDA provides.
- Annual rental payment of 125 percent to 200 percent of the dryland cash rental rate, depending on the practice that is selected.
- Cost share assistance for installing the conservation practices on land that is retired.
In addition, Kentucky will offer one time lump sum incentive payments for contract extension or permanent easements and will provide additional cost-share assistance.
Applicants may still enroll in general or continuous signup CRP. However, CREP provides additional benefits not available through the general and/or continuous signup. For instance, the CREP enrollment process is on a continuous basis and payments are at a higher effective rate.
Haying and grazing is not allowed during the CRP contract period unless USDA permits it for emergency purposes under normal CRP rules.
For more information on the Kentucky CREP, contact your local USDA Service Center, Farm Service Agency (FSA) office, or Soil and Water Conservation District office.
Additional information is also available on FSA's web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at 202-720-2600 (voice and TDD).
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C., 20250-9410, or call (202) 720-5964 (voice or TDD).
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.