Indiana farmers paid to adopt conservation practices

BROWNSBURG, Indiana, July 13, 2005 (ENS): The state of Indiana and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Friday signed an agreement that establishes a $20.2 million Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to improve water quality for the Indianapolis and Evansville areas.

"Reducing agricultural runoff into the targeted watersheds improves the environment by enhancing habitat for wildlife, especially for threatened and endangered species," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner.

Conner attended the signing ceremony for the new CREP at Brownsburg with Indiana Lt. Governor Becky Skillman.

"This partnership will also improve water quality, and I encourage all eligible producers to participate," he said.

The Indiana CREP targets the enrollment of 7,000 acres in the Highland/Pigeon, Tippecanoe and Upper White River watersheds where sediment, nutrients, pesticides and herbicides run off from agricultural land.

Landowners can offer eligible cropland and marginal pastureland in these watersheds. Land enrolled in the program remains under contract for a period of 14 to 15 years.

In return for installing approved conservation practices, over the course of their contracts, CREP participants will receive incentive payments and cost-share assistance from USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation, which also will provide annual rental payments for the duration of the contract.

The state of Indiana will contribute at least 20 percent of the overall costs of implementing the CREP and will offer 10 year contract extensions and permanent easements. Indiana will pay all costs associated with monitoring the state's water quality and provide technical assistance to develop conservation plans and implement practices.

The total cost over a 15 year period is estimated at $20.2 million, with the federal agency contributing $14.6 million and the state funding $5.6 million.

Signup for the Indiana CREP is scheduled to begin July 18, and will continue until enrollment goals are attained, or through December 31, 2007, whichever comes first.

The CREP, a part of the Conservation Reserve Program administered by USDA's Farm Service Agency, partners with states, tribal governments and private groups to address critical conservation issues.

The program has garnered strong support nationwide from agricultural producers and landowners, sports enthusiasts and environmentalists, and local and state governments since its start in 1997.

More information on the Indiana CREP is available at local FSA offices and on FSA's website at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/default.htm.

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