The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of Montana have finalized changes to the provisions of the Missouri and Madison River Corridor Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program administered by the Farm Service Agency.
"This amendment provides flexibility for Montana farmers and ranchers to establish additional cover and increase land stewardship along the 524-mile river corridor," says Montana FSA Deputy Administrator Juan Garcia.
"The Montana CFREP program encourages the development of conservation buffers adjacent to the Madison and Missouri rivers that are designed to improve water quality and enhance wildlife."
USDA implemented the federal-state-private partnership in 2003 to target 26,000 acres in Blaine, Broadwater, Cascade, Chousteau, Fergus, Gallatin, Lewis & Clark, Madison and Phillips counties. CREP is another option under the Conservation Reserve Program that agricultural producers may use to establish conservation practices on their land.
Producers can enroll in CREP at any time. Per-acre annual rental payments are at a higher effective rate than offered under the general CRP signup.
"Farmers and ranchers from these nine counties (see above) who are interested in enrolling land into the CREP program should call or visit their local FSA office," says acting FSA Montana State Executive Director Dick Deschamps.
Montana producers are encouraged to voluntarily convert eligible cropland and marginal pastureland to native grasses, legumes, forbs, shrubs and trees. In return, they receive annual rental payments and other incentives.
The Montana CREP objectives are to lower water temperatures, increased dissolved oxygen in river water, and provide additional habitat for wild animals. The program helps protect the blue ribbon trout habitat of the Madison and Missouri rivers, and provides homes for a number of wildlife species. Cropland must meet CRP's cropping history criteria, which includes one-year ownership, and it must be physically and legally capable of being cropped.
Marginal pastureland is also eligible for enrollment provided it is suitable for use as an eligible riparian buffer. Persons who have an existing CRP contract or an approved offer with a contract pending are not eligible for CREP until that contract expires.