USDA, Maryland Simplify CREP Payment Plan

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley recently signed an agreement that will simplify the way in which annual rental payments are derived and ultimately protect drinking water for Baltimore residents.

The state's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) helps protect soil and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by offering financial incentives to farmers and ranchers to take steps to protect streams and rivers from nutrient runoff.

Since the inception of CREP, Maryland farmers, ranchers and landowners have enrolled more than 74,000 acres and removed sensitive cropland and marginal pastureland out of production. Instead of tilling these acres, they have used program incentives to plant streamside buffers, establish wetlands, protect highly erodible land, and create wildlife habitat.

Under the new agreement, a farmer will get a percentage of Maryland's state-determined soil rental rate and should result in increased rental payments to the producers. The agreement will also increase the one-time signing incentive payment for producers who are enrolling for the first time or re-enrolling expiring acres.