Agriculture department aims to expand conservation partnerships



WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is leveraging its authorities under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to bring in new types of partners and ultimately expand opportunities in voluntary conservation for the nation’s agricultural producers and private landowners.

In direct response to feedback from state agencies, Tribes, nonprofits and other groups, USDA has updated the program’s rule regarding matching fund requirements, and invested in additional staff to work directly with partners for streamlined, partner-driven conservation efforts.

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program enables USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, through the Farm Service Agency, 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, according to a news release from the USDA. “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.”

“We want to build capacity so that we can better reach partners, including those who we may not have worked with before,” Ducheneaux said. “We’re taking action to reduce barriers to access and opportunity for historically underserved producers and landowners, and by engaging more partners, we’re working with groups that provide a direct link to these communities.”

Investments in CREP staffing build on other recent outreach and education efforts by FSA, including a $4.7 million investment announced this year to establish partnerships with organizations to provide outreach and technical assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers on a variety of CCC and FSA programs, including conservation programs.

Currently, all CREP partners are states; however, FSA is strongly encouraging Tribes and non-governmental organizations to consider partnerships.

To learn about CREP and other CRP opportunities, producers and landowners should contact their local USDA Service Center.

For more information, contact your local county FSA office or USDA Service Center Finder, or visit usda.gov.


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