In May 2000, Ohio initiated its first Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in the Lake Erie watershed. CREP is a state, federal and private partnership to enroll 67,000 acres of conservation practices (buffers strips, riparian buffers, wildlife habitat, wetlands, windbreaks) on environmentally sensitive lands in the watershed. Landowners enrolling cropland and marginal pastureland along streams and ditches will receive annual payments and cost-share from USDA. In addition, landowners may receive state bonus payments to establish, maintain and extend certain conservation practices.
Enrollment is on a continuous basis, as funding permits. Eligible land must be in portions of the Black or Vermilion River watersheds and must meet basic eligibility for the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (See CRP summary page). Once enrolled in the programs, no harvesting of crops is permitted in the CREP area.
With the exception of wetlands and windbreaks, all practices will be established on cropland areas within 300 feet of a perennial stream or ditch.
CREP payments can be significantly higher then general or continuous CRP payments. Because these are high priority practices in the Lake Erie watershed, payments are 55%-125% higher then base payments under the general CRP.
As an example, river bottom fields enrolled as filter strips and planted to warm season prairie grasses can pay $175 per acre per year. The same area planted to trees will pay $225 per acre per year.
Cost share payments for establishing approved cover are generally 50% with many of the practices offering additional 40% incentive. Some practices offer one-time signing incentives of $100 per acre in addition to the cost-share. One-time bonus payments for wetlands of $500 per acres are also available.
The goal of CREP is to reduce sediment and chemical runoff to ditches, streams and Lake Erie and to improve aquatic and upland wildlife habitat and the continuation of a vibrant agricultural community and economy.
Individuals interested in the Lake Erie CREP can contact the Lorain County Farm Services Agency (FSA), Lorain Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) or NRCS at the address above.