Better for Water, Better for Landowners, Better for Wildlife

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 30, 2010

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a voluntary cropland-retirement program that helps landowners improve drinking water quality, protect public health, improve wildlife habitat and conserve soil and water in watersheds serving public drinking water supplies.

CREP achieves all of this by reducing pesticides in drinking water supplies, reducing sediment inflow and erosion rates, helping farmers meet nutrient reduction goals and providing wildlife habitat enhancement for the preservation of natural diversity in the state.

CREP projects are unique because they partner federal and state agencies with local interests to provide annual rental payments and incentives to landowners.

Missouri’s first CREP agreement was put into action in 2000 through a partnership with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, public drinking water systems, landowners and the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). Through this CREP project, Missouri enrolled more than 14,000 environmentally sensitive cropland acres. These areas are in watersheds of public drinking water supply reservoirs.

Eugene Keats, county executive director for FSA, oversees the administration of CREP in DeKalb County. “People are usually confident their drinking water is safe, but are often unaware of what it takes to make it safe,” said Keats. It is costly for cities and rural water providers to treat water for contaminants, and this translates to higher water bills for citizens.

“CREP creates the proverbial win-win situation,” said Keats. “Cities win because good vegetative cover is filtering potential contamination from public reservoirs, reducing treatment expense and helping meet regulatory guidelines. John Q. Public Taxpayer wins because he is using safer, cleaner, more affordable drinking water. Government wins because it does not have to legislate more programs to clean up water supplies downstream from reservoirs, and the farmer wins because he receives just compensation for renting land that is protected from erosion while it enhances water quality.”

Plattsburg City Manager D. J. Gehrt agrees: “Missouri CREP is a major factor in assuring the long-term availability of a quality water supply for all patrons of Smithville Lake.” Smithville Lake, just north of Kansas City, provides the drinking water for residents of Plattsburg, Smithville and Edgerton. Gerht says tests of the water in Smithville Lake have shown that levels of the corn herbicide atrazine have steadily dropped. This

has saved the city and water customers the added cost of filtering this herbicide from their drinking water.

Donald Graeff of Osborn raises corn and soybeans in the watershed that

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