USDA Expands Partnerships for Conservation Through CREP

Dan Conservation, USDA-FSA

Image by Wayne Hartmann from Pixabay

(WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2021)?— The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is leveraging its authorities under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to bring in new types of partners and ultimately expand opportunities in voluntary conservation for the country’s agricultural producers and private landowners. USDA has updated CREP’s rule regarding matching fund requirements and invested in additional staff to work directly with partners for streamlined, partner-driven conservation efforts.? 

CREP is part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and enables USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), through Farm Service Agency (FSA), and partners to co-invest in partner-led projects. CREP also plays an important role in USDA’s broader climate change strategy, bringing together producers, landowners and partners for climate-smart land management. 

“CREP 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,” said FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. “We look forward to working with new, diverse partners who can shape CRP to address priorities most important to them and to local communities, from water quality and conservation to wildlife habitat and climate outcomes. The CREP changes in this rule will remove barriers and provide partners with increased flexibility to participate in this powerful program.” 


Matching Funds 

A Dec. 6, 2019, rule required that 50% of matching funds from partners be in the form of direct payments, which made it more difficult for diverse types of groups to participate as partners in CREP. With this rule change, partners can now provide their negotiated level of matching funds in the form of cash, in-kind contributions, or technical assistance. This change allows for greater flexibility and opportunity for additional partners to participate in the program. 

This change was enacted through a Dec. 13, 2021 rule in the Federal Register.   The rule also updated policy to now provide a full annual rental rate to producers who are impacted by state, Tribal or local laws, ordinances and regulations that require a resource conserving or environmental protection measure. The previous rule reduced the rental payment made to producers who were covered by such laws.