Dec 23, 2021
The Biden-Harris Administration is deeply committed to working with producers as important partners to achieve conservation and climate outcomes. Last spring, we rolled out a comprehensive overhaul to our Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to improve participation and interest. Building on those efforts, we are excited to roll out updates to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in an effort to bring more partners to the table.
Bottom line, we want to grow CREP, as it is one of the most flexible tools we have for locally driven, partner-led efforts to reward producers and drive important environmental and climate outcomes.
First, we updated our policy to increase flexibility for partners. Partners can now negotiate how they provide their matching requirements between cash, in-kind, technical assistance or a mix of the three. This change allows for greater flexibility and opportunity for additional types of partners to participate in the program.
Second, we have added capacity to our CREP team to provide outreach and support to existing and potential partners. Knowing that conservation concerns and decisions are made on a local level, we recently hired three new CREP staff members who will each have a specific regional focus. This allows them to work closely with potential and existing partners and expand program accessibility. The CREP Regional Specialists are Evelyn Whitesides (East region), Kim Martin (Central region) and Patrick Lewis (West region), and you can find their contact information here. I encourage potential partners to reach out to these individuals to determine if CREP is a good fit to their conservation goals.
Finally, we are opening our doors to new types of partners. Historically CREP has been available to states and tribes and the changes we are making will help us bring on more of these governmental partners. The 2018 Farm Bill gave us the authority to also work with a broader array of partners which includes nonprofits and private entities who want to help implement conservation on the ground with an eye towards working lands conservation. These new partnerships will help us meet the full potential of CRP. But excitingly, the 2018 Farm Bill gave USDA the authority to work with a broader array of partners. We are looking forward to working with new states, Tribes, nonprofit, and private entities who want to partner with us to implement conservation on the ground through voluntary efforts. These new partnerships are key to meeting the full potential of the program.
Currently, CREP has 34 projects in 26 states. In total, more than 860,000 acres are enrolled in CREP. Producers interested in conservation should contact their local service center or visit our website to see if there is an existing CREP agreement serving their location. States, Tribes, or non-governmental entities should reach out to the individuals named above, or visit our website.
Zach Ducheneaux is the Administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency.