The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a program to encourage farmers to take cropland out of production and establish conservation practices. Wetlands and forested riparian buffers are eligible to earn Ottawa County and Northwest Ohio farmers one-time payments of $2,000 per acre.
The main goals are to improve water quality in the lake’s watershed by reducing flooding and nutrient loading in waterways, as well as reducing soil erosion.
The ODNR will be accepting applications for its Water Quality Incentive Program (WQIP) through Jan. 29. For Lake Erie CREP wetlands information, Ottawa County landowners can contact Mark Witt at 419-889-3706 or email@example.com. For Lake Erie CREP riparian buffers contact Sam Kaiser, 614-439-2807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new Water Quality Incentive Program (WQIP) is offered in combination with the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The program will offer farmers the $2,000 per acre payments for new Lake Erie CREP wetlands and forested riparian buffers or buffer strips with trees.
The H2Ohio program is a water quality initiative that includes an Ohio Department of Agriculture program with the goal of assisting farmers with best management practice implementation to reduce runoff from their fields. The new program will be offered through the ODNR.
The CREP is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that offers farmers compensation for taking cropland out of production and establishing conservation practices, according to the H2Ohio website. Farmers must be eligible for the USDA program which is offered in 27 northwestern Ohio counties and must submit an application for the new program before having a CREP contract approved in order to participate in the new program.
If farmers are approved for the new program they must have an approved CREP contract to receive the $2,000 per acre payments.
A total of $5 million in H2Ohio funding is earmarked for the new program. Depending on how many sign up for the program, some of the funds could be redirected towards H2Ohio wetland projects.
There are currently 15,000 acres of Lake Erie CREP that could be enrolled, according to the department.
The program agreement length is 14.5 years, expiring six months before the ends of the CREP contracts, which last for 15 years.
“Improving Ohio’s water quality is incredibly important,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “Giving farmers an incentive to participate in this conservation process is another step toward clean water for future generations.”
Applications will be selected based on which projects are the best for improving water quality.