CRP and CREP Program
Conservation Reserve Program
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. CRP encourages landowners to convert highly erodible cropland and other environmentally sensitive areas to permanent cover, such as introduced or native grasses, trees, filter strips, riparian forest buffers, wetlands, and shallow water habitats.
CRP is funded through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). CCC makes annual rental payments based on the agriculture rental value of the land, and provides cost-share assistance for up to 50 percent of the participant’s eligible costs to establish approved conservation practices. Participants enroll in CRP contracts for 10 to 15 years. The program is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), with technical assistance provided by NRCS and other cooperating agencies.
National CRP program information
Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
In Maryland, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) offers additional incentives to encourage landowners to implement practices that will help reduce sediment and nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay and will improve wildlife habitat. CREP is seeking to enroll 16,000 acres of highly erodible cropland into grass, shrubs, and/or tree plantings, establish 77,000 acres of riparian buffer habitat, provide 5,000 acres of water and wetland habitat, and restore 2,000 acres of habitat for declining species. CREP is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). NRCS and cooperating agencies are providing technical assistance to help landowners plan and implement CREP practices.
Like CRP, landowners must own land for at least one year before they can enroll it in CREP. Enrollment is on a continuous basis, allowing landowners to join the program at any time rather than waiting for specific sign-up periods. Eligible lands include the following:
Cropland that is on highly erodible soil (Erodibility Index of 8 or more east of the Bay, including Cecil County, or 16 or more west of the Bay) within 1,000 feet of a perennial or intermittent stream, wetland, or other qualifying waterbody, and is suitable for planting grasses, shrubs, and/or trees;
Cropland or marginal pasture that is adjacent to a perennial or intermittent stream, wetland, or other qualifying waterbody, and is suitable for establishing buffer practices (filter strips, forest buffers, wildlife buffers, or wetland buffers);
Cropland that is suitable for restoration of wetlands or creation of shallow water habitats;
Cropland that is suitable for habitat restoration to benefit declining species of plants or animals.
Eligible cropland must have the required "cropping history," which means that it was planted or considered planted to an agricultural commodity crop during 4 of the 6 crop years, 2008 to 2013, and is still physically and legally capable of being planted in a normal manner.
Marginal pasture is land that is not cropland or forestland and is not currently functioning as a riparian buffer.
Lands that have heavy infestations of invasive weeds and/or have poor access for treatment are not eligible for enrollment in CREP. As a general guideline, "heavy infestation" means that more than 20% of a site is covered with invasive plants, including noxious weeds. Lands with light infestations of invasive plants may be enrolled in CREP if a qualified weed control specialist determines that weed control can be successfully accomplished within 12 months of enrollment.
FSA provides an annual land rental payment, plus cost-share of up to 50 percent of the eligible costs to plant grasses, shrubs, and/or trees on highly erodible cropland, establish vegetated buffers along streams, restore wetlands, provide shallow water areas for wildlife, and restore habitat for rare and declining species. Annual rental payments are based on the county soil rental rates (SRR), and include an additional incentive dependent upon the eligible practice, as follows:
SRR plus 200% of the SRR per acre for riparian forest buffers and wetland restorations;
SRR plus 150% of the SRR per acre for grass buffers, wildlife buffers on cropland (grasses with trees and shrubs), and restoring habitat for declining species;
SRR plus 100% of the SRR per acre for shallow water areas, and wildlife and wetland pasture buffers;
SRR plus 80% of the SRR per acre for establishing permanent vegetation on highly erodible cropland.
All CREP practices are eligible for a one-time bonus payment of $100 per acre. Shallow water areas, grass buffers, forested buffers, wetland restorations, wildlife buffers, and wetland buffers are eligible for an additional one-time bonus payment of up to $100 per acre, plus another one-time bonus payment of up to 40 percent of the cost of practice implementation.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), through the MACS program, offers additional cost-share (up to 37.5 percent of eligible costs) for practices that will provide significant benefits for water quality.
NRCS and cooperating agencies provide technical assistance to help landowners evaluate their land and determine which CREP practices will meet their needs. Land enrolled in CREP must be planted with herbaceous plants (grasses mixed with forbs and/or legumes), woody plants (shrubs and/or trees), or a combination of both. For each CREP practice, landowners can select one or more plantings from an approved list of grass mixes, shrubs, or trees. Decisions are recorded in a site-specific conservation plan. By signing a CREP contract, landowners agree to install practices according to NRCS practice standards and a time schedule that is included in the conservation plan.
Plantings must be maintained in the approved cover for the life of the CREP contract -- 10 to 15 years. Noxious weeds must be controlled as required by State law. Haying or grazing of most CREP land is prohibited, unless approved in advance by FSA.
Maintenance activities, such as mowing, are usually needed to establish and maintain plantings.
Certain management practices, such as prescribed burning, light strip disking, and overseeding of legumes, may also be required at specified intervals to provide long-term wildlife benefits. FSA provides up to 50 percent cost-share for approved management practices.
As part of a CREP conservation plan, NRCS provides landowners with one or more "job sheets" that explain the maintenance and management requirements for each practice.
USDA Service Center offices, located in each Maryland county, can provide additional details and program assistance concerning CREP eligibility requirements, practices, and payments.
CREP Technical Guidance is located in Section I-I of the Maryland Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG)
NRCS Field Offices, located in the USDA Service Centers in each Maryland county, can provide additional details and program assistance concerning CREP eligibility requirements, practices, and payments.
Phone: (443) 482-2962
Laura Cannon (FSA)
Phone: (443) 482-2769