"The Bush Administration is committed to fostering federal and state partnerships to help protect our Nation's natural resources," said Veneman. "Since New York's major watersheds traverse through multiple states, this conservation initiative will eventually improve the natural resources in other areas of the country, including the Chesapeake Bay."

Veneman, New York State Agriculture Commissioner Nathan Rudgers and New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation made the announcement during a tour of Herrington Farms in Troy.

The officials said that through CREP, buffers planted along stream banks and rivers will filter an estimated 72,000 pounds of phosphorus, 38,000 pounds of nitrogen and 105,000 tons of sediment per year. In addition to enhancing water quality, the new vegetation will also provide shelter, nesting areas and food for many species of wildlife.

CREP is a voluntary program that pays participants to plant conservation practices on environmentally sensitive land. In return, participants receive annual rental payments, cost-share assistance and other financial incentives.

It combines an existing USDA program, the Conservation Reserve Program, with state programs to meet specific state and national environmental objectives. CREP partnerships with states, tribal governments and private groups provide a coordinated approach to addressing critical agricultural resource issues.

Sign-up for the New York CREP begins Dec. 1 and will be continuous through Dec. 31, 2007. Land enrolled in the program will remain under contract for a period of 10 to 15 years. During this period, USDA will contribute an estimated $52 million into the program and New York State will fund an additional $10 million.

Over the course of the contracts, CREP participants will receive from USDA annual rental payments for the life of the contract for removing environmentally sensitive land from crop production. Areas targeted for CREP include cropland and marginal pastureland adjacent to streams and wellhead areas that provide drinking water to rural municipalities.

Participants will replace row crops with native grasses, hardwood trees and other conservation practices that prevent erosion and reduce runoff containing nutrients and pathogens. Riparian buffers containing trees and shrubs may also be planted on those acres.

In addition, USDA will reimburse participants for establishing these practices and provide extra incentive payments for installing certain conservation measures.

New York State will provide cost-share assistance for practice installation, as well as technical, educational and engineering support. New York State will also offer an annual tax credit for producers who enroll in CREP.

USDA and New York State set a goal to enroll 40,000 acres into CREP over the next four years. This acreage will protect nearly 4,600 stream miles and 473,000 surface water acres. The enrolled acreage is expected to provide benefits for 30 million watershed acres.

Producers can obtain more information on CREP from their local Farm Service Agency offices and on FSA's Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com