Program Description:

Telegraph Springs, Loudoun Co.

CREP tree planting at Telegraph
Springs, Loudoun County.

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a joint federal and state program with private cooperation that aims to protect environmentally sensitive areas, decrease erosion, restore wildlife habitats, and improve water quality by restoring degraded wetlands and establishing vegetative buffers along streams and other eligible water bodies. All CREP-enrolled pasture or cropland will be planted to hardwood trees, native warm season grasses, or approved shrubs and grasses. CREP focuses on protecting water quality and improving wildlife habitat through the voluntary installation of vegetated buffers. These buffers reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients entering Virginia's waterways.

Landowner Eligibility:

Eligibility is based on the amount of income derived from different sources. Applicants, including land trusts, cannot receive benefit from USDA conservation programs if their annual adjusted gross income for non-farm income exceeds $1,000,000 ($2,000,000 for a married couple) unless at least two-thirds of their total adjusted gross income is derived from farming, ranching, and forestry operations.

Land Eligibility:

Cropland or pastureland adjacent to streams, ponds or wetlands and used to produce food or fiber two of the last five years is eligible. All cropland and un-forested pastureland acres within the Chesapeake Bay watershed are eligible. Permanent hayland is not eligible for CREP. Chesapeake Bay watershed or landowners in southern Virginia are eligible based on their drainage into the Southern Rivers area.

Contract Length:

CREP contracts require a 10 to 15 year commitment to keep lands out of agricultural production.


Enrolling in CREP enables landowners to address rural environmental problems and meet regulatory requirements. It also provides a viable means of supplementing farm income.

Cost-Share/Payment Information:

Rental Payments: CREP rental payments will be made on contracted buffer acres for either 10 or 15 years (your choice). Rent of up to $100/acre/year (depending on land use and soil type) is available in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The rental rates include a federal $5/acre/year payment for maintenance and a Commonwealth of Virginia $5/acre/year rental payment. The Commonwealth's rental payment will be made as a lump sum after all conservation practices are installed and approved.

State Tax Credit: State tax credit of 25 percent of the total eligible cost contributed by the cooperator is available, not to exceed $17,500.

Legacy Program Information:

After the installation of conservation practices, the Commonwealth of Virginia will pay an additional $1,000 per acre for the recordation of a permanent open space easement to protect the buffer in perpetuity.

Signup Information

Non-competitive sign up is available through the Farm Service Agency.

Additional Resources:

Virginia farmers, such as the one profiled in our article, An Award-Winning CREP Project, have already benefited from enrolling in CREP.