If you haven't signed up filter strips or waterways in Indiana's first Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program signup, there's still time. It's a continuous sign-up, notes Gail Peas, a conservation specialist with the Indiana Farm Service Agency.
Landowners in parts of 29 counties are eligible. Watersheds where farmers and landowners can apply for funding include the Tippecanoe, Upper White River and Highland/Pigeon watersheds.
Indiana did not have any CREP funding until a program came together about one year ago. The hold up in the past was lack of state funding. It's a cost-share program whereby the federal government kicks in a healthy portion of the payments and incentives, but the state must obligate funds to share in the cost. Until Becky Skillman and the Daniels administration became involved, the pieces simply didn't fit together to guide the legislature into finding the necessary funding to make CREP a reality.
The big advantage is extra incentive funding for CREP, plus a special one-time state incentive. Even the Nature Conservancy is willing to get into the act if someone is willing to commit to a permanent conservation easement on the land. Such an easement would restrict how the land could be utilized in the future. In return, this privately-funded group would provide additional, one-time money for someone enrolling in CREP.
Interest has been brisk, Peas reports. So far about 400 contracts for Indiana CREP projects have been awarded. Another 1,000 are "obligated," meaning they will be accepted and funded. Staff simply haven't had time to dot "I"s and cross "T"s to officially award contracts for those projects, Peas observes.
Whether more CREP projects come along soon, or whether the existing one is expanded, depends largely upon state funding, Peas reports. There is no lack of interest and there are hints of future CREP projects in the wind. But it won't happen unless the state agrees to provide additional funding, she concludes.