Access to NRCS Conservation Programs

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP):
USDA and the State of New York have launched a $62 million Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement to improve water conditions on 30 million acres within New York’s 12 major watersheds. These watersheds serve 55% of the state’s population. CREP is a federal-state natural resource conservation program targeted to address state and nationally significant agricultural related environmental concerns. Under CREP, program participants receive financial incentives from USDA to voluntarily enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in contracts of 10- to 15- years. Participants remove marginal pastureland or cropland from agricultural production and convert the land to native grasses, trees, and other vegetation. CRP is authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985, as ammended. The New York CREP will help farmers address erosion and nutrient runoff on 30 million acres of land within New York’s 12 major watersheds. Retiring highly erodible cropland and planting it to protective vegetation will enhance water quality and provide shelter, nesting areas and food for many species of wildlife. Buffers planted along streambanks and rivers will filter phosphorus, nitrogen, and sedimentation from the waterways.

The Oneida County SWCD along with NRCS and FSA are working together to implement New York State’s CREP program in Oneida County. The goal of CREP is to encourage farmers in their efforts to reduce the amount of nutrients and sediments entering priority waterbodies and public well-head areas. CREP aims to reduce pollution in waterbodies by helping agricultural landowners plant trees, shrubs, and grasses on streambanks to trap sediment, pesticides, and fertilizers in runoff. Enrolled land is buffered and given annual rental payments based on the acreage. Conservation practices done within and around the buffer ex: fence, seeding, tree planting, stream crossings and well development are cost-shared at 50% up front. When all practices are completed participants receive another 40% of the practice cost share. CREP contracts can be between 10 and 15 years, during which the buffers must be maintained by the contracted individual.

Who can sign up:

  • Land must be located in one of the eligible watersheds or public well-head areas.
  • Cropland must have been planted to commodity crops four of the six years from 1996-2001 and be physically and legally capable of being cropped today.
  • Marginal pastureland can be enrolled provided it is suitable for use as a riparian buffer.
  • Enrollment is on a continuous basis.

Please contact Margaret Fusco,USDA-NRCS @ 736-3316 for CREP questions in Oneida County. For further information visit the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets at: www.agmkt.state.ny.us/SoilWater/home

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was reauthorized in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Farm Bill) to provide a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. EQIP offers contracts with a minimum term that ends one year after the implementation of the last scheduled practices and a maximum term of ten years. These contracts provide incentive payments and cost-shares to implement conservation practices. Persons who are engaged in livestock or agricultural production on eligible land may participate in the EQIP program. EQIP activities are carried out according to an environmental quality incentives program plan of operations developed in conjunction with the producer that identifies the appropriate conservation practice or practices to address the resource concerns. The practices are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions. The local conservation district approves the plan. EQIP may cost-share up to 75 percent of the costs of certain conservation practices. Incentive payments may be provided for up to three years to encourage producers to carry out management practices they may not otherwise use without the incentive. However, limited resource producers and beginning farmers and ranchers may be eligible for cost-shares up to 90 percent. Farmers and ranchers may elect to use a certified third-party provider for technical assistance. An individual or entity may not receive, directly or indirectly, cost-share or incentive payments that, in the aggregate, exceed $450,000 for all EQIP contracts entered during the term of the Farm Bill.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP):
The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for residents who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private lands. The purpose of the program is to develop habitat for upland wildlife, wetland wildlife, threatened and endangered species, fish and other types of wildlife. Objectives of the program are to provide technical, educational, and financial assistance to eligible landowners to address the protection of wetlands, wildlife habitat, and related concerns on their land. It has been documented that New York has lost thousands of acres of this habitat in the last 15 to 20 years alone. Oneida County residents who own or control land, and agree to prepare and implement a wildlife habitat plan will be offered technical and financial assistance to establish wildlife habitat practices. WHIP contract agreements are from 5 to 10 years and the total cost share amount cannot exceed $10,000 per agreement. Conservation practices that can be cost shared up to 75% of the cost of establishment include: wildlife upland habitat management, wildlife wetland habitat management, wildlife watering facility, buffer strips, hedgerow planting, fish stream improvement, pasture and hayland planting, tree and/or shrub establishment, wetland development or restoration, fencing, and riparian buffers.

Wetland Reserve Program (WRP):
The purpose of the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is to preserve, protect, and restore the nation’s valuable wetlands. Wetland protection will improve wildlife and migratory bird habitat, improve water quality, and provide flood water retention, ground water recharge, open space, and aesthetic values. WRP is a voluntary program that offers three options to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands: permanent easements, 30-year easements, or 10-year restoration cost-share easements. The permanent easement offers the landowner payment of up to the agricultural value of the land, and 100 percent of the restoration cost. The 30-year easement offers 75 percent of the agricultural value and 75 percent of the restoration cost. The restoration cost-share agreements are for a minimum 10- year duration and provide for 75 percent of the cost for restoring the involved wetlands. In all cases, the landowner retains ownership and responsibility for the land, including any property taxes. The landowner still controls access to the land, and can enjoy recreational use of the area. Land enrolled in the WRP can still be sold or leased.