Conservation Incentives Will Aid Farmers and Wetlands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced a new package of conservation incentives on Oct. 3 for wetlands restoration under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Environmental Defense Fund experts are praising the plan.

"We have been working for years to encourage incentives like these," said Sara Hopper, agricultural policy director for Environmental Defense Fund. "There's a lot of pressure to farm on marginal lands right now because of record high commodity prices. These incentives will help conservation remain a competitive financial option for private landowners. The new incentives will also help more farmers and landowners restore wetlands, which filter polluted water and provide important habitat for wildlife."

The incentives are designed to support restoration of wetlands, both in floodplains and in other areas, and restoration of duck nesting habitat. The funding is also aimed at restoring bottomland timber forests in the floodplains of some of America's major rivers and tributaries.

"Planting more bottomland hardwood trees on the banks of rivers will help protect the health and safety of people across the Midwest and South," said Terry Noto, a conservation expert working with Environmental Defense Fund. "These wetland forests improve the quality of our drinking water, provide floodwater storage, and reduce the severity of flooding downstream. They provide vital habitat for endangered species, migratory birds, and game. Planting more trees will also help us sequester more than one million tons of carbon. The new plan provides badly needed incentives, and we think they'll be worth every penny."

The specific incentives include:

•A signing incentive payment of $100 per acre for enrolling in the program;

•A 40 percent practice incentive payment, which -- combined with the current 50 percent cost-share rate -- provides as much as 90 percent of the cost of restoring wetlands and planting vegetation;

•A 20 percent bonus on current CRP soil rental rates.