The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Louisiana entered into a new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program agreement on Feb. 4 to improve water quality in the Louisiana Coastal Prairie Region.
The new LA CREP II agreement will include portions of Acadia, Allen, Calcasieu, Evangeline, Jefferson Davis, St. Landry and Vermilion parishes.
“This effort will help reduce the delivery of agricultural non-point source pollution to water bodies in the region through the establishment of native grasses, shallow water areas for wildlife, and restoration of rare and declining habitat areas,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It will also help increase the native Coastal Prairie acreage by 500 percent, to more than 2,500 acres.”
LA CREP II is a partnership among USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Office of Soil and Water Conservation, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and private organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy, which provided a significant financial contribution for the agreement’s implementation. Through this valuable partnership, participants will be offered incentives for the installation of needed conservation practices.
LA CREP II seeks to enroll 15,050 acres located in the watersheds of the Mermentau River Basin area into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Landowners can voluntarily offer eligible cropland in the seven different parishes within the watershed for a contract period lasting between 14 to 15 years. By doing so, the state seeks to improve water quality and establish, preserve and/or enhance wildlife habitat leading to an increased population and diversity of birds, mammals and aquatic organisms.
Over the course of the contracts, the partners will provide LA CREP II participants certain incentive payments and cost-share assistance for installing approved conservation practices. Also provided are annual rental payments plus incentive payments of 50 percent of the base CRP contract annual rental rate for the life of the contract. The state of Louisiana and private partners will contribute at least 20 percent of the overall costs of implementing LA CREP II, including making a one-time up front Best Management Practice (BMP) payment of $61.10 per qualified acre and will provide additional cost-share assistance above the established 50 percent federal cost share. The state also will pay all costs associated with the LA CREP II annual water quality monitoring program and provide additional technical assistance, where resources are available, to develop and implement conservation plans. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will assist in water quality monitoring.
Sign-up for LA CREP II will begin March 14 and will continue until enrollment goals are attained and/or as long as there is statutory authority for such CRP enrollment. More information on LA CREP II is available at local FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Louisiana Soil and Water Conservation District offices.
Information may also be found on FSA’s website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.