YAZOO CITY, Miss., April 22, 2015 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Deputy Under Secretary Karis Gutter today announced that USDA and the state of Mississippi have entered into a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement. The initiative, part of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program, will help improve water quality and restore native hardwood forests in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, and establish up to 8,000 acres of woods and wetlands. The agreement covers all land within Bolivar, Coahoma, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Washington, and Yazoo counties.  

USDA and the State of Mississippi Sign Agreement to Conserve and Restore Forests

Release No. 0050.15

Contact: Kent Politsch
(202) 720-7163

Conservation Program Will Allow Establishment of Up to 8,000 Acres of Woods and Wetlands  

YAZOO CITY, Miss., April 22, 2015 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Deputy Under Secretary Karis Gutter today announced that USDA and the state of Mississippi have entered into a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement. The initiative, part of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program, will help improve water quality and restore native hardwood forests in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, and establish up to 8,000 acres of woods and wetlands. The agreement covers all land within Bolivar, Coahoma, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Washington, and Yazoo counties.   

"As a native of Mississippi, I’m pleased to announce this agreement today – Earth Day – expanding our conservation partnership with this great state,” said Gutter. “This represents a new era of conservation and forestry that builds on the good work of America’s farmers, ranchers and foresters. In addition to establishing thousands of acres of woods and wetlands, this program will make a difference by improving water quality, and reducing sediment, nutrients and waterborne pathogens. It also protects threatened and endangered species while enhancing wildlife habitat, leading to more birds, mammals and aquatic organisms in the Delta.” 

This year marks the 30th year of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program, a federally-funded voluntary program that contracts with agricultural producers so that environmentally sensitive agricultural land is not farmed or ranched, but instead used for conservation benefits. Program participants establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as “covers”) to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with cost-share assistance for establishing the covers and with annual payments for land in the conservation contract. With CREP, high-priority regional conservation goals are identified by local, state, or tribal governments or non-governmental organizations, and the federal funds and resources of Conservation Reserve Program are supplemented with the non-federal funds and resources to achieve those goals.   

The Mississippi Delta CREP is a partnership between USDA, the Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission, and private organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and the Walton Family Foundation, which provided a significant financial contribution for implementation of the agreement. Through this partnership, participants will be offered incentives to install the conservation practices for a contract period lasting from 14 to 15 years. State and private partners will contribute 20 percent of the overall program costs, and costs of water monitoring and technical assistance.

Enrollment for the Mississippi Delta CREP will begin April 27, 2015. Eligible farmers and growers can qualify for annual rental payments, a 50 percent cost-share for installing the approved conservation practices, incentive payments of 40 percent of the practice costs, and enrollment bonuses of up to $300 per acre. CREP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). More information is available at local Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation District or FSA offices. Visit http://offices.usda.gov to find your local FSA office. To learn more about USDA’s conservation efforts, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.

Mississippi is also a USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity state. The initiative addresses chronic rural poverty in 66 identified counties in the state. To date, USDA StrikeForce assistance reaches 880 counties, parishes, colonias, boroughs and tribal reservations across 21 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

2014 Farm Bill continues the Conservation Reserve Program. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill. To learn more about FSA, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov.

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