If you live in Hamilton County, you just might see someone you know if you check out the new video just produced and posted by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture to promote the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, more commonly called CREP.
The 'stars' of this 10-minute video are Indiana farmers who are participating already in the CREP program, and Indiana conservation partners who work with farmers and landowners in various capacities.
The Hamilton County 'star' is Rodney Rulon, who farms with his uncle, Jerry, and cousins Ken and Roy in Hamilton County. But he's not the only farmer featured. Check out the video to see other Hoosier farmers and landowners explaining details of the practices they've installed as they walk the land they own and/or farm.
CREP is a federal program. Indiana farmers were locked out of participating in it for years because there was no mechanism for Indiana state government to provide matching funds. It's an attractive match, with the federal government putting up $4 to $8 for every dollar Indiana is willing to invest in protecting its' own resources. Lt. Governor Becky Skillman made it one of her priorities as she became the first official Secretary of Agriculture in Indiana. Working with the Indiana soil conservation partnership, the program became reality in mid-2005 when Chuck Conner, a Hoosier and now acting Secretary of Agriculture nationally, visited an Indiana farm to make Indiana's participation in the program official.
Several practices are offered through the CREP cost-share program. Chief amongst them are filter strips along ditches and streams. Participating farmers convert strips of varying widths to grass and cover, in exchange for attractive annual rental payments. These are still attractive even in light of rising crop commodity prices. The idea is to use grass as a filtering tool to keep the number one pollutant, soil particles, out of streams and lakes. Soil particles also often carry nutrients and other substances along with them.
If there is a downside to the program, it's that it's not available for every Hoosier to participate in. That's because the program, as it's set up from the federal level, targets watersheds which are considered most sensitive and in need of protection from potential erosion, sedimentation and other degradation to water quality. All three watersheds where farmers can qualify are currently located in the Wabash River Basin, ranging from northwest to central to southwest Indiana.
Currently $1 million is available in CREP funds for cost-share practices in these watersheds. Andy Miller, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, hopes the video available at the Website will help farmers and landowners who might be eligible for the program decide to give it more careful consideration. The new $1 million needs to be contracted with Indiana farmers and landowners by June 1, 2008. Local soil and water conservation district offices in counties where the program is offered can supply the information you need to enroll and participate.
Find the video with Hoosier 'stars' at: www.in.gov/isda.