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MDARD Announces Agreement with USDA to Implement Key Conservation Program

Agreement brings $40 million in federal funds protecting Michigan’s waterways

LANSING, MI - Today, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) announced a pivotal conservation agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA), which reinstates Michigan’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

CREP is a partnership between the state of Michigan, the USDA Farm Services Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service, conservation districts, and other partners to implement voluntary conservation practices in the Western Lake Erie Basin, Lake Macatawa, and Saginaw Bay watersheds. It will further protect the state’s environmental and natural resources.

“Michigan’s farmers power our economy and are effective stewards of our natural resources,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “By reinstating CREP, we can continue improving Michigan’s water quality and reducing phosphorus in the Western Lake Erie Basin. I am grateful to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and our federal partners for coming to an agreement and bringing back this crucial program. Let’s keep working together to protect our Great Lakes and ensure Michigan’s farmers can succeed.”

“Our Michigan farmers play a key role in tackling the climate crisis,” said Senator Stabenow. “The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program gives them the tools they need to continue to lead on climate and improve water quality across our state. I applaud USDA and MDARD’s decision to continue this critical program.”

“CREP is one of our most flexible tools when it comes to voluntary, locally-led, partner-driven conservation efforts, and we’re so glad that we’re able to put it to work again in Michigan,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “This initiative previously had a positive impact in Michigan, and we look forward to broadening the reach of the program to new agricultural producers and landscapes. We are grateful to have support from Michigan leaders to make this program possible.”

“Michigan is excited to bring CREP back to our state to help farmers protect our natural resources. Thanks to the support of the Governor and our legislative partners, we’re going to be able to leverage $5 million for a $40 million federal investment,” said Gary McDowell, Director of MDARD.  “After six years without CREP, this is a huge win for water quality in Michigan and will help the state reach our 40 percent phosphorus reduction entering the Western Lake Erie Basin from farmland.”

Under CREP, landowners agree to install and maintain at least one, if not several, of six possible conservation practices (filter strips, riparian buffer, sediment control structure, field windbreak, wetland restoration, and grass, forb, and legume buffers) for up to 15 years. In return, USDA-FSA will reimburse up to half of the costs to install those practices plus additional financial incentives. MDARD will then reimburse the remaining half of the practice installation costs plus offer a sign-up incentive and a maintenance payment. Sign-up for CREP is ongoing until funds are depleted. 

“MDARD continues to be deeply committed to working with our farming community to reduce nutrient run-off into Michigan’s waterways,” said McDowell. “It will take us working together with USDA-FSA, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, our local conservation districts and our farmers to successfully implement CREP in the state.” 

MDARD is also partnering with Michigan State University Extension to help with landowner outreach and training conservation district technicians who, along with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, will also assist in conservation practice implementation.

“We are excited to work with MDARD and offer this great watershed conservation incentive for Michigan farmers,” said Tim Boring, USDA Farm Service Agency State Director in Michigan. “Working together, we can lead the way through climate-smart solutions that will maintain critical environmental benefits through voluntary conservation efforts, increase climate resilience, sequester more carbon, enhance agricultural productivity, and protect the Great Lakes.”  

“The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Michigan is pleased to be part of this state-federal partnership to protect our state’s natural resources. NRCS staff will work with CREP participants to help them get the most conservation benefits from the program,” said NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee.

Landowners interested in applying for CREP should contact their local conservation district or the USDA’s Service Center.

For more information about CREP, visit USDA's CREP webpageClick here to read the signed agreement.