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Conservation program extended

signups begin

June 30, 2004

Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have agreed to extend and enhance the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program through 2007, said Colleen Cashell, director of the Washington County office of USDA's Farm Service Agency .

This partnership, formed in 1997, will allow Maryland to continue the process of enrolling up to 100,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land along streams and rivers to be set aside and maintained to protect water quality.

CREP is a voluntary initiative that pays farmers and landowners a one-time bonus of up to $150 an acre along with annual rental rates to take environmentally sensitive cropland out of production for 10 to 15 years and plant vegetative buffers, create wildlife habitat, or establish wetlands to protect local streams.

Landowners will be reimbursed up to 87.5 percent of the cost, along with bonuses, to install best management practices.

Sign-up for the new Maryland CREP has begun and continues until enrollment goals are attained or through Dec. 31, 2007, whichever comes first.

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The USDA share for Maryland CREP is estimated to be $170 million for rental payments to be made over the next 15 years, and about $21 million for cost-share payments during the same period, for a total of $191 million. Maryland will spend an estimated $2.2 million in cost share payments for a total of $14.2 million.

CREP funds have been used to protect more than 71,000 acres of environmentally sensitive cropland in Maryland. Pennsylvania also has CREP agreements.

Landowners or operators of agricultural acreage interested in the program may visit the Washington County USDA Service Center at 1260 Maryland Ave., Suite 107, Hagerstown.

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