Conservation Reserve Enhancement Goals (CREP)
The program strives to improve and protect water quality with the additional benefits of restoring wetlands and wildlife habitat. This is achieved by local, state and federal conservation partners providing natural resource management through technical assistance, educational outreach and financial incentives for landowners in North Carolina’s farming communities.
CREP is an initiative that was established as part of the highly successful Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CREP expands CRP’s effectiveness by allowing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work in partnership with state and local agencies to meet specific conservation objectives. CREP utilizes federal and state resources to achieve long-term voluntary protection of environmentally sensitive cropland and marginal pastureland. These voluntary protection measures are accomplished through 10-, 15-, 30- year and permanent conservation easements.
CREP encourages farmers to place environmentally sensitive land near streams or other approved waterbodies into a vegetative cover for a period of time. In return, landowners receive annual payments and are reimbursed for establishing the conservation practices. Landowners that choose to enroll in a 30-year or permanent easement will also receive a one-time state incentive payment and may also be eligible to receive a tax incentive.
A CREP conservation easement is a written agreement between a landowner and the state of North Carolina in which there is an acquired interest in the land to install conservation practices that protect natural resources. The conservation easement exists for either 30 years or permanently, depending on the landowner’s choice. With CREP, the landowner voluntarily limits future use of the land for activities such as crop farming and development, yet retains private ownership.
Landowners in approved watersheds are eligible for CREP. To be eligible, cropland must meet cropping history criteria and be able to sustain cropping as of the landowner’s program enrollment date. Marginal pastureland may be enrolled provided it is suitable for use as a riparian buffer. Landowners may utilize best management practices, or BMP’s, such as grassed filter strips, forested riparian buffers, hardwood tree establishment and wetland restoration.
- Grassed Filter Strips are narrow buffers of grasses and /or shrubs along agricultural fields that remove nutrients, sediment and other pollutants from runoff. These buffers protect surface and subsurface water while enhancing the ecosystem of the waterbody.
- Riparian Buffers are areas of native trees and shrubs located adjacent to a body of water. These buffers serve as a barrier to nonpoint source pollution from agriculture. Buffers also filter runoff, control flooding, protect property from erosion and provide essential wildlife habitat.
- Hardwood Tree Establishment: The purpose of this practice is to establish a stand of predominantly hardwood trees in timber plantings that will enhance environmental benefits.
- Wetland Restoration is restoring the functions and values of wetland ecosystems that have been devoted to agricultural use. Wetlands filter nutrients and sediment from agricultural runoff using native plants that thrive in those conditions. Wetlands also provide wildlife habitat, floodwater storage and replenish groundwater.
The Economic Incentives include:
- Annual payments - Up to 200 percent of the predetermined rate
- State Easement Payment - A one time payment of up to $1,200 per acre
- Cost Share Assistance - Up to 100 percent for the installation of eligible practices
- Annual Maintenance Payment