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Conservationists offering $26K in CRP incentives

A local conservation group is making sure that some of the county’s most critical habitats continue to protect area waterways.

The Cedar River Watershed District board plans to approve $26,000 in incentives for local farmers to keep chunks of their land within the Conservation Reserve Program, a federal program that pays farmers to put tillable land aside for natural grassland. While roughly 900 acres of CRP are set to expire in Mower County this fall, conservationists were concerned about CRP grass buffers that lie adjacent to waterways and help filter farm field runoff.

“The crop issue has been a really big one for Cedar River managers,” said Justin Hanson, Mower Soil and Water Conservation District resource specialist.

Hanson added that the $26,000, from the CRWD’s budget, will help six farmers retain 36 acres of CRP adjacent to waterways. And another $7,900 is still available for other farmers. Hanson expects all the money to be allocated.

Each farmer will receive an upfront payment and then be subject to the federal rules of leaving the grasslands alone in 10- to 15-year contracts.

Among those critical, target areas, a total of roughly 900 acres within 150 contracts is set to expire from CRP this fall. Statewide, 300,000 acres are set to expire this fall and 823,000 will within the next five years. Minnesota currently has about 1.5 million acres of CRP.

Though many incentive programs coupled with CRP payments still can’t compete with farmland prices, Hanson is happy with how this local incentive worked in target areas.

“I think it’s going well,” he said.

Furthermore, Michelle Janssen, program technician at Mower County Farm Service Agency, said Mower residents typically show high enrollment rates within the program, something conservationists have also noticed and find reassuring.