State program is a boost to streams across Missouri

Friday, June 14, 2002

A popular program intended to keep soil in place while improving water quality continues to enjoy great success across the state.

The Conservation Reserve Program has been around for more than 10 years and has helped improve the state's forest, fish, and wildlife resources while keeping soil in place and out of our streams. The CRP is actually a United States Department of Agricultural program that is administered by the Farm Services Agency, and pays willing landowners an annual rental payment to retire agricultural land and maintain a vegetative cover for 10 or 15 years.

Within the CRP is a continuous sign-up for buffer strips. This program allows a landowner to establish certain buffers on crop land and pasture land. A landowner can enroll the land into CRP at any time, without having to go through the process of submitting a competitive offer.

Buffer program helps

A part of the program I really like is the Conservation Reserve Riparian Buffer (CP-22) program, which provides a rental payment for 10 or 15 years and incentives to establish trees along streams. Requirements include planting trees and fencing livestock from the stream and riparian corridor if they are present.

Trees are important to have along streams. Trees:

Provide root systems that armor stream banks and prevent stream bank erosion.

Provide protection from scour erosion in nearby fields and pastures during floods.

Trap and filter sediment, nutrients and chemicals before they enter the stream.

Provide shade to modify seasonal water temperature extremes.

Provide leaf litter to help feed the aquatic ecosystem.

For land to be eligible it must be immediately adjacent to a stream having perennial flow or a seasonal stream. If trees are already established on the land and functioning as a riparian buffer, the land is ineligible. The minimum about of land to be enrolled is 50 feet from the top of the stream bank up to a maximum of 180 feet. Along the Missouri and Mississippi River the maximum will be 300 feet.

What is and isn't eligible

Measurements begin at the top of the stream bank. Crop land and pasture or hay land is eligible, but timber ground is not. This is the only CRP that pasture or hay ground can be enrolled into. Pasture land has a set base rental payment for each county in the state. Crop land is determined by the type of soil that is located at the site to be enrolled.

Because conservation buffers have a high environmental benefit, an additional 20 percent is added to the rental rate. A maintenance incentive of $7 to $10 per acre is also added to help offset the maintenance of the buffer through the life of the practice.

For example, in Cape Girardeau County, the rental rate is $66 per acre for pasture land. Add 20 percent ($13.20) for the riparian buffer practice and $7 for maintenance and this will equal $86.20 per acre each year. This would be the payment that a landowner would get for pasture for 10 or 15 years. Crop land rental payments may be a little higher.

An additional incentive now available with this program pays an up-front signing bonus of $10 dollars per acre for every full year the contract covers. This means that a landowner could receive $100 to $150 per acre at the start of the contract to help defray up-front installation costs.

Financial incentives

The CRP program will also pay up to 90 percent of the county average cost for site preparation, temporary cover until permanent cover is established, grading or shaping, seeds, trees or shrubs, and fencing.

Additional cost share is available to provide and alternative watering source (pumps, piping form exiting water source, and limited access) for livestock if the watering source was a stream.

For information on the Conservation Reserve Riparian Buffer (CP-22) program contact the local USDA office or the Missouri Department of Conservation at 290-5730. CRP has and will continue to make a big impact on the natural resources that we all enjoy and rely upon.

Brad Pobst is a fisheries management biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation in Cape Girardeau.

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