Conservation program to help Louisiana coastal prairie - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Conservation program to help Louisiana coastal prairie

The following is a news release from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry:

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the state of Louisiana have entered into a new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement to improve water quality in the Louisiana coastal prairie region. The agreement, called LA CREP II, will include portions of Acadia, Allen, Calcasieu, Evangeline, Jefferson Davis, St. Landry and Vermilion parishes.

"The agreement will reduce agricultural non-point source pollution to water bodies in the region by establishing more areas of native grasses, shallow water habitats for wildlife and the restoration of rare and declining habitat," Strain said. "The program has the potential to increase Louisiana's native coastal prairie acreage to more than 2,500 acres, a 500 percent gain."

The program is a partnership of USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry's Office of Soil and Water Conservation, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and private organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Conservancy. Through this valuable partnership, participants will be offered incentives for the installation of needed conservation practices.

LA CREP II seeks to enroll 15,050 acres located in the watersheds of the Mermentau River Basin area in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Landowners can voluntarily offer eligible cropland in the seven parishes within the watershed for a contract period of 14 to 15 years. By implementing the program, the state seeks to improve water quality and establish, preserve and/or enhance wildlife habitat leading to an increased population and diversity of birds, mammals and aquatic organisms.

Over the course of the contract period, the partners will provide LA CREP II participants incentive payments and cost-share assistance for installing approved conservation practices. Also provided are annual rental payments plus incentive payments of 50 percent of the base CRP contract annual rental rate for the life of the contract. The state of Louisiana and its private partners will contribute at least 20 percent of the overall costs of implementing LA CREP II, including making a one-time up front Best Management Practice (BMP) payment of $61.10 per qualified acre and will provide additional cost-share assistance above the established 50 percent federal cost share. The state also will pay all costs associated with the LA CREP II annual water quality monitoring program and provide additional technical assistance, where resources are available, to develop and implement conservation plans. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will assist in water quality monitoring.

Sign-up for LA CREP II begins March 14 and will continue until enrollment goals are attained and/or as long as there is statutory authority for such CRP enrollment.

More information on LA CREP II is available at local FSA offices, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Louisiana Soil and Water Conservation District offices.

Information may also be found on FSA's website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.

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