One of Secretary of Agriculture Becky Skillman's goals for Indiana when she came to office was to begin taking advantage of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement program in Indiana. Other surrounding states have cashed in, bringing in more money for farmers to do conservation work. But until Skillman came onto the scene, Indiana didn't have a CREP initiative.
Why? Because it required matching portion from the state. In return, the federal government, through the Farm Service Agency, directed in Indiana by Julia Wickard, pays 80% of the cost of the program.
Five years ago on the Hession Farm near Brownsburg, Ind., Skillman and the Conservation partners signed the first CREP agreement. Farmers in three watersheds have been able to seek additional funds through the program to help install conservation measures. Friday, Aug. 27, on the Mike Starkey Farm, also near Brownsburg, the same people gathered again, led by Skillman. This time she announced a second initiative- another round of CREP funding. Only now there are 11 watersheds, touching all or part of 65 counties in Indiana, where farmers are eligible to participate.
Skillman proclaimed it another great step forward. She indicated that while we may still be behind neighboring states, we're moving closer toward getting Indiana's fair share of conservation money offered in this program.
Jared Chew, director of the Division of Soil Conservation within IDSDA, was obviously excited. He noted that while it took a lot of effort and was a long time coming, the moment to celebrate was finally here.
Wickard says it will help farmers because if they farm in any of the CREP watersheds, it's another source of funding for soil conservation projects. The watershed concept is being used as more and more each day, groups with the purse strings, including Congress, like to see money targeted to areas where it will do the most good, and where positive benefits from dollars spent can be documented.
Signup is underway now and is continuous. Start checking out whether you qualify at your local FSA office. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is ready to assist if you receive funding, and it comes time to do technical planning on a filter strip, grass waterway or other project.
One reason for picking the Starkey farm was that he has already participated in phase one of CREP, installing filter strips along drainage ways, plus other practices.