Release No. 0562.09

Jim Meisenheimer (651) 602-7719
Jamie White (605) 352-1161

USDA Secretary Vilsack and South Dakota Governor Rounds Agree to Improve James River Water Quality and Enhance Area Wildlife Habitat

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds in signing an agreement that will improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, aid flood control and enhance wildlife habitat in the state's James River Watershed.

"The USDA is proud to collaborate with the South Dakota to protect and conserve our natural resources while improving the quality of life in our communities," said Vilsack.

The goal of South Dakota's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is to enroll up to 100,000 acres of eligible agricultural land located in the James River Watershed. The establishment of the South Dakota CREP will help restore prairie pothole wetland hydrology and surrounding upland buffers along drainages leading into the James River. The project will improve water quality, provide wildlife habitat and enhance recreational access on agricultural lands located in this watershed.

Eligible producers interested in enrolling acreage in the South Dakota CREP must offer a minimum of 40 contiguous or nearly contiguous acres, as determined by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which may consist of a combination of land offered for enrollment into CREP and adjacent non-CREP acres in order to meet the 40-acre minimum block-size requirement. The 40-acre minimum requirement may be waived for beginning, limited resource or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. The acres offered for CREP must meet the specific conservation practice requirements of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to be eligible under CREP. An additional requirement of the James River Watershed CREP is that producers enrolling eligible acres in CREP must also enroll the applicable acres in the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Walk-In Area Program for hunting and fishing access.

Producers enrolling acreage under CREP will be eligible to receive the current weighted-average rental rate for the three predominant soils on the eligible acreage. Some conservation practices will qualify for additional incentives such as a 20 percent rental rate increase, Practice Incentive Payment (PIP), and a Signing Incentive Payment (SIP) of $100 per acre. The acreage enrolled in CREP will also be eligible to receive an annual payment from the state of South Dakota equal to 40 percent of the weighted-average rental rate for acres enrolled under CREP.

The total cost of the South Dakota CREP over the life of the project is estimated at $161.4 million for a total enrollment of 100,000 acres.

Sign up for this voluntary program is expected to begin Nov. 23, 2009. Farmers and ranchers will be able to apply for this program at local county FSA offices. FSA will administer the South Dakota CREP project on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation, working with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department and other state CREP partner agencies.

FSA news releases are available on FSA's Web site at:http://www.fsa.usda.govvia the "News and Events" link.

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