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Vermont’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a voluntary program designed to reduce sediment runoff and improve water quality by removing land from agricultural production and establishing vegetative buffers. State and federal funds are used to compensate landowners for the loss of productive agricultural land through upfront incentive payments and annual rental payments based on the total acreage dedicated to vegetated filter strips, forested buffers, or grassed waterways.
CREP is an enhanced version of the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), making eligibility requirements largely the same for both programs.
To be eligible for the CREP program:
- The applicant must have owned or operated the land for 12 months prior to enrollment.
- The land must be in agricultural use.
- The land must be adjacent to a perennial stream or river that lack vegetative buffers and have agricultural related water quality impacts.
CREP does not cover isolated wetlands, man-made ponds or entire fields.
- A filter strip is a grassed area that helps reduce sediment, nutrient, and pollutants in runoff.
- A forested buffer contains trees and/or shrubs in addition to a filter strip to reduce runoff losses, provide enhanced wildlife habitat, stabilize streambanks and create shade to lower water temperatures.
- A grassed waterway is a shallow vegetated swale designed to convey concentrated runoff to surface waters without causing erosion.
Federal cost-share and incentive payments are available to cover 90% of the implementation costs associated with fencing, alternative water systems, stream crossings, and vegetative buffer establishment. In most instances the costs may be 100% covered with help from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The payments from CREP come from two sources, a lump sum payment once the state and federal contracts are signed, and annual payments for the next 15 years. The payments are based on the quality of soils within the buffer area and the type of agricultural use the land has had within the last decade. Contracts can either be 15 or 30 years, during which the buffers must be maintained by the contracted individual.
- For an example of a CREP payment plan, please review the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) Brochure (pdf).