Landowners in 54 southern and western Minnesota counties can once again submit applications to enroll in the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, a voluntary program that pays landowners to retire marginal cropland to create permanent conservation easements to protect environmentally sensitive land.
“Thanks to the dedication of local conservation staff who serve as the bridge between landowners and the state, MN CREP’s first enrollment period saw robust landowner interest and participation,” said Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources Executive Director John Jaschke. “We look forward to seeing the benefits this next enrollment period will create for both agricultural producers and water quality.”
MN CREP is a state-federal program designed to improve water quality and conserve habitat. It aims to protect and restore up to 60,000 acres of marginal cropland using buffer strips, wetland restoration and drinking water wellhead area protection. Native plantings on those acres filter water, prevent erosion and provide critical habitat for grassland species including badgers, meadowlarks and monarch butterflies. Landowners have enrolled approximately 12,000 acres to date.
Enrollment was first available in May 2017. Enrollment was put on hold in late 2018 to await passage of the new federal farm bill and associated program development by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and the USDA Farm Service Agency oversee the program. Landowners simultaneously enroll land in a 14- to 15-year federal Conservation Reserve Program contract and a permanent Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve program conservation easement. Landowners receive payments to restore native vegetation on enrolled acres, which maximizes water quality and habitats.
Landowners wanting to learn more about MN CREP can contact their local FSA/Natural Resources Conservation Service/SWCD office. In Rice County, call 507-332-7418. To learn more, visit bwsr.state.mn.us/crep.