HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has announced a conservation agreement to reinstate Michigan’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, offering $40 million in federal funds to farmers and landowners to help protect the state’s waterways and natural resources.

The CREP is a partnership between the state, the United States Department of Agriculture and three conservation districts, including the Lake Macatawa watershed that covers parts of Ottawa and Allegan counties. Farmers and landowners who take special steps to limit pollution and improve water quality can be reimbursed through the MDARD.

The CREP was founded in 1985 but had run out of funding by 2016. Funding was restored by the 2018 Farm Bill and now new landowners can once again take part in the program.

“CREP is one of our most flexible tools when it comes to voluntary, locally led, partner-driven conservation efforts, and we’re so glad that we’re able to put it to work again in Michigan,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

Through CREP, landowners agree to install and maintain up to six conservation practices for up to 15 years. Those practices, including wetland restoration and sediment control structures, have had a major impact across the country.

As of 2020, the USDA estimates CREP partnerships have prevented more than 9 billion tons of soil from eroding, cut nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from cropland by more than 85% and sequestered an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases.

“Our Michigan farmers play a key role in tackling the climate crisis,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, said in a release. “The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program gives them the tools they need to continue to lead on climate and improve water quality across our state. I applaud USDA and MDARD’s decision to continue this critical program.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also voiced her support for the program, acknowledging the importance of protecting not only the Lake Macatawa watershed, but also Saginaw Bay and the western basin of Lake Erie, which are all covered by CREP.

“Michigan’s farmers power our economy and are effective stewards of our natural resources,” Whitmer stated. “By reinstating CREP, we can continue improving Michigan’s water quality and reducing phosphorous in the Western Lake Erie Basin. I am grateful to the MDARD and our federal partners for coming to an agreement and bringing back this crucial program.”

Landowners interested in applying for CREP should contact their local conservation district. You can learn more through the USDA website.