Iowa’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) celebrated its 100th wetland site earlier this month, nearly 20 years after the program was launched to encourage farmers and landowners to build retention areas to aid nutrient reduction in north central Iowa.
The Leidahl family farm in Buena Vista County hosted about 50 guests for the event as their newly built, 6-acre wetland was unveiled on a cool, rainy day in northwest Iowa.
“We’re just delighted with how this turned out,” Todd Leidahl said. He, along with his five siblings, own the farm.
The wetland collects runoff from nearly 1,000 acres. Over the course of its life, the site is expected to collect between 60% to 90% of nitrogen (N) runoff from those acres, the equivalent of 8,300 pounds of N annually.
Next generation supports
As a family farmer, Leidahl said it was important to have buy-in from not only his siblings but also those who may take over the operation one day.
“I think the next generation is probably just as excited as we are,” he said. “They see how this helps nature, and they are very supportive.”
The CREP program is a joint effort of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, county water conservation districts and Iowa State University.
It offers participants up to 15 years of annual rental payments from USDA for all enrolled acres paid at 150% of the average soil rental rate; 100% cost-share for wetland restoration and buffer establishment; and a one-time, upfront incentive payment to enter into either a 30-year or perpetual easement.
“This is an exciting milestone and a great springboard to get us to the next 100 wetlands. We couldn’t have done it without the public and private partners who are working alongside us,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said at the event. “We know there’s still work to do to achieve the goals outlined in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, but we have more partners and funding to support our efforts than ever before. And we’re continuously researching and testing new science-based conservation practices to help us scale up projects more efficiently.”
Naig noted that even though it took 20 years to get the first 100 CREP projects built, he expects the next 100 to come along much quicker.
“We’re really focused on accelerating this program,” Naig said. “We have about 50 projects being planned now. It won’t take us long to get to 200 wetlands.”
More information on CREP is available online at bit.ly/3tnvV0C.