Funding available for set aside program; Filter strips help keep nutrients, sediments from waterways

Published 3:59 am Monday, August 31, 2015

Conservation Reserve Program funds are available for filter strips between  farmland and waterways. Herald file photo

Conservation Reserve Program funds are available for filter strips between farmland and waterways. Herald file photo

By Michelle Jensen

FSA CRP Program Technician, For the Herald

The Mower County Farm Service Agency wants farmers and landowners to know the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has once again become a viable tool for conservation planning on their farm.

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This federal program pays an annual rental payment to set aside cropped farmland for a 10- to 15-year contract. Michelle Janssen, CRP program technician said producers are encouraged to consider enrolling in one of the nationally available Continuous practices which includes buffers. Continuous practices are available year round and are not competitive against any ranking or points system.

The majority of CRP practices require that cropland have a minimum four years of crop history. Popular practices under the CRP umbrella in Mower County include: Filter Strips are seeded to native grasses; planted 30 feet to 120 feet immediately adjacent to perennial creeks or streams. Filter Strips help filter nutrients and sediments before they enter above ground water sources. Grassed Waterways are shaped and designed grassed areas up to 100’ wide; they are used to convey field runoff and decrease soil erosion in cropped fields. The final types of popular CRP practices in Mower County are wetland restorations and pheasant habitats. These practices typically enroll small blocks up to entire fields of cropland. They are seeded to multiple species of native grasses and forbs that help provide beneficial wildlife habitat and feed sources for nesting birds, as well as offer a filtering area for water to pass through on its way underground.

These practices, can be used as an effort to keep rivers and streams clean in Mower County and surrounding areas, as well as provide critical habitat for wildlife and sometimes slow the speed at which water travels through the county to reduce downstream flooding events.

This past June, CRP rental rates increased for these environmentally sensitive areas. CRP currently pays $240 to $447 per acre per year — depending on soil types — with the average contract paying about $300 / acre. Landowners arrange to have required native grasses and forbs planted on their contract acres. Some areas may qualify for up to 90 percent cost share assistance towards the practice establishment, and many also offer a $100 / acre signing bonus.

Although CRP isn’t meant to be competitive with grain prices or cash rent on farmland, it is considered an important tool when applied adjacent to ditches and stream banks to keep unwanted runoff from entering waterways.

Mower County has more than 1,000 contracts in CRP covering roughly 6,700 acres, but perhaps the greatest benefit is peace of mind. CRP land can be filled with flowers and draws in deer, turkeys, pheasants, insects, several species of song birds as well as many other wildlife animals.

Anyone looking to enroll in the CRP program can contact the Mower County Farm Service Agency and ask for Michelle at 507-433-2343. ext 114.