Quite often when looking at farm and ranch real estate, you will hear the word “CREP” mentioned. If you are new to farming, you’ll probably be wondering what we are talking about. “CREP” is an acronym for Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and is a conservation program created by the United State Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Services Agency (FSA). There are regional Farm Services Agencies throughout every state. In central Virginia, you can find them in Orange, Louisa, Verona, Buckingham, Rustburg and Lexington.
The goal of the Virginia CREP program, at least here in central Virginia, is to help reduce nutrient, sediment and animal waste run-off that is negatively impacting the Chesapeake Bay. By fencing off stream buffers from livestock and providing a strip buffer from fertilizer applications, less pollutants will be entering the streams and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. While the fencing off of streams is mandated by some state governments, in Virginia, it is still voluntary.
The CREP program provides financial help to farmers through either cost-share programs to build fences around their streams, ponds, lakes and wetlands and to construct automatic watering troughs to provide fresh and clean water to livestock or through rental payments for the acreage enrolled. Programs can run for 10 or 15 years. Here is a link to the Virginia CREP fact sheet.
Since Virginia is a Caveat Emptor state, you should inquire as to if the farm that you are interested in buying is enrolled in not just the CREP program but any of the various USDA’s programs. If the farm is participating in any of these programs, you may be responsible for continuing the program practices or face various penalties. While it is always good to ask the owner or the farmer of the property, I suggest also checking with the Farm Services Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service as well. Generally the agency can tell you if the property is enrolled in a program, but they also need the owner’s permission to share any details.