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USDA pledges $5 million for CREP in Bay watershed states
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 1, 2014) — USDA has pledged $5 million to state and local partnerships to accelerate tree planting along the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
In exchange for removing environmentally sensitive land from production, farmers, ranchers and landowners in specially designated conservation areas can be paid an annual rate, said Todd Atkinson, a USDA spokesman, in an email. States in the watershed include New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia.
Participation in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is voluntary, and the contract period is typically between 10 and 15 years in addition to other potential federal and state incentives. The goal of the program is to increase the number of riparian forested buffers along waterways within the watershed. The buffers can filter sediment and absorb chemicals and other contaminants that might otherwise pollute the watershed.
“Establishing riparian forest buffers provides better fish habitat, cleaner streams and a healthier watershed for the Chesapeake Bay,” said Robert Bonnie, a USDA under secretary, in a statement. “Forest buffers also provide wildlife habitat for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife.”
To date, the USDA has given more than $500 million in financial assistance to farmers who enrolled land in similar programs across the country.
To learn more about the program’s initiative’s, producers are encouraged to visit their area Farm Service Agency county offices or go online to www.fsa.usda.gov/crp.