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Enrollment in Wisconsin’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is open once again just in time for farmers looking at fields that may be too wet for planting anytime in the near future.

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is one component of the federal Conservation Reserve Program. Enrollment in the program was suspended Oct. 1, 2018, when the federal fiscal year ended without a new farm bill. Congress and the president enacted a new farm bill in December 2018; it took a few months for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to organize the new provisions. Enrollment reopened June 3.

The program offers both state and federal incentives to landowners who install conservation practices along waterways. There’s no minimum acreage; adjacent land can remain in production. Landowners can enroll in a 15-year contract or a perpetual easement.

In return for payments, landowners plant grass filter strips, or tree and shrub buffers between water and farmland; install grass waterways or restore wetlands. Those practices stop water and allow it to seep into the soil and subsoil, reducing nutrient runoff and flood damage to farmland.

Participants receive at least three types of payments.

annual payments

  • — For crop land those range from $95 to $300 per acre and average about $200. For pasture land they are $45 to $80 per acre, averaging about $60.

one-time incentives

  • — Based on the annual rental rate for the enrolled land, incentives average $250 per acre for 15-year contracts and $2,000 for perpetual easements.

practice payments

  • — The program covers at least 70 percent of the cost of installing conservation practices.

Land in 54 of Wisconsin’s counties is eligible for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Land must have been in crop production or pasture at least four years between 2012 and 2017. Visit datcp.wi.gov or call 608-782-0180 for more information.