CREP signups open in Mower County, state; Mower SWCD seeks landowners to discuss permanent conservation

Published 6:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2017

By Tim Ruzek

Gathered just uphill from the meandering Cedar River, local and state officials in May celebrated the first signup day for the new round of a state-federal program that permanently enrolls farmland into conservation.

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Mower Soil and Water Conservation District and agency partners joined together in northwest Mower County on Udolpho Township land owned by farmer Roger Peterson, who enrolled the parcel in a previous round of the Minnesota Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (MN CREP). Peterson, who has participated in numerous conservation programs, joined Mower SWCD district manager Justin Hanson in talking about the importance of CREP and encouraging landowners to consider it.

Peterson said CREP gave him the chance to take eroding cropland and get paid to put it permanently into prairie grass.

“I just jumped at that idea and never looked back, and I’ve been happy with it ever since,” Peterson said. “The wildlife here is phenomenal.”

MN CREP officially opened  in May as a voluntary state-federal program for landowners seeking to protect their environmentally sensitive cropland. It is designed to improve water quality and habitat conservation.

Locally, Mower SWCD serves as the lead agency for MN CREP in Mower County, one of 54 counties in southern and western Minnesota selected for this round of the program. Overall, this round of MN CREP will protect and restore up to 60,000 acres of marginal cropland in the state through buffer strips, wetland restoration and drinking water wellhead protection.

Many opportunities are provided through MN CREP for landowners to restore their land into a private wildlife area for their own enjoyment or enroll farm land that often is frequently flooded or in the 100-year floodplain, said James Fett, Mower SWCD’s watershed technician leading the CREP effort in Mower County. Compensation through MN CREP is offered at a fair market value.

“MN CREP is a way to make a positive change on the landscape that lasts forever,” Fett said. “We’re also really excited to have CREP back because, unlike other conservation programs, it’s not always available to us.”

David Copeland, a board conservationist with the Minnesota Board of Water and Resources (BWSR) – the state lead for MN CREP – also attended May’s kickoff with Michelle Janssen of Farm Service Agency for Mower County, and Brian DeVetter of the Natural Resources Conservation Services.

BWSR’s Executive Director John Jaschke, has called the new round of MN CREP “a milestone in conservation for Minnesota.”

MN CREP is funded with about $350 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and $150 million from the state of Minnesota.

Landowners accepted into MN CREP will enroll in the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for 14 to 15 years. At the same time, the land will be put into a permanent conservation easement through the state’s Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) easement program. Private ownership continues and the land is permanently restored and enhanced for water quality and habitat benefits.

Mower County landowners interested in MN CREP should contact James Fett, Mower SWCD, at 507-434-2603 or by email at

More information, visit the websites for Mower SWCD at or the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources