The Riparian Buffers Tax Incentive Petition sign now

If you agree with the general concept proposed here (similar to what's long been in place in Maryland and Arkansas)-- that Dutchess County and/or New York State landowners (beyond just farmers) at least get a partial exemption on their property (or income) taxes if they put in effective riparian buffers on their property-- then sign on to this petition with a suggestion as to how to make this happen. [There are various options and directions we can go in on this; we're collecting your recommendations to hone our specific proposal.]

Credit where credit due-- our proposal looks to recognize, build,and expand on the and notable successes already of riparianbuffer/education programs started by the NYSDEC's Trees for Tribsprogram, Conservation Advisory Councils in Rhinebeck, Clinton andacross Dutchess County, Fishkill Creek, Wappinger Creek, Jackson Creek,and Fall Kill Watershed Committees, Housatonic Valley Association (andtheir Stream Team), Wappinger Creek Intermunicipal Council, DutchessCounty Environmental Management Council, Cornell Cooperative Extensionof Dutchess County's Environmental Program, Hudson River WatershedAlliance, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and many others.

The fact is that, despite the hard work and worthy efforts of all those organizations above, funding is still often quite limited for true riparian buffer restoration here in Dutchess County-- this was made public during a presentation at the April 11th Dutchess County Watershed Workshop at Norrie Point-- thus the need for a county-level or state-level partial exemption on property (or income) taxes for putting in functional and significant riparian buffers.

"In recent years, state tax incentive programs have been initiated specifically to preserve, improve, and create wetlands and riparian zones. Reduced property tax assessments are available in Oklahoma for riparian buffer strips and in Texas for riparian buffer strips and endangered species habitat. State income tax credits are offered in Arkansas for the costs of establishing and maintaining wetlands and riparian zones. In Virginia, a tax credit is available for 25 percent of the value of the timber retained in riparian buffers, up to $17,500."
[from USDA Forest Service's Southern Research Station's Southern Resource Forest Assessment: ]

Note-- it's been proven that, if designed properly, such a tax incentive program would more than pay for itself in economic benefits to Dutchess County taxpayers (scroll down a bit for even more information on long-successful riparian buffer tax incentive programs in Maryland and Arkansas-- beyond this information just below):

According to the University of Maryland, "The Chesapeake Bay's Riparian Forest Buffer Panel Technical Team reports that established riparian forest buffers can remove 21 pounds of nitrogen per acre at $.30 per pound and about 4 pounds of phosphorus per acre at $1.65 per pound, annually. The Interstate Commission for the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) estimates that urban retrofitting of best management practices (BMPs) to remove 20 percent of the current nutrient runoff will cost approximately $200 per acre, or $643,172,600 for the Bay basin, a much larger price tag. The ICPRB also estimates the costs of reducing runoff from highly erodible agricultural land to be $130 per acre. According to the buffer panel, establishing forest buffers in Maryland could cost $617,000 per year in order to achieve the 40-percent reduction of nutrients by the year 2000; comparable structural engineered approaches cost $3.7 million per year...studies of improved water quality can give us an idea of what the potential benefits of riparian buffers are. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture economists, the 40 to 45 million acres of cropland retired under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), at an annual cost of $1 billion, have generated $3.5 to $4.5 billion annually in water quality benefits. Reduced erosion; increased recreational fishing; and improvements in ease of navigation, water storage and treatment, and flood control are among the benefits. The economists hypothesize that the dollar value of benefits would be higher if more environmentally sensitive land had been targeted."

[from "When a Landowner Adopts a Riparian Buffer: Benefits and Costs-- Fact Sheet 774: Society's Economic Benefits"-- by Lori Lynch, Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Maryland, College Park, and Robert Tjaden, Regional Extension Specialist, Wye Research and Education Center]

According to the Rhode Island Rivers Council, "Riparian zones, due to their location between surface waters and adjacent land areas, provide a range of important functions; because they provide all of these functions, riparian buffers can be thought of as a 'conservation bargain':

-- Trapping/removing sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen, and other nutrients from
runoff. These pollutants lead to eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems;

-- Trapping/removing other contaminants, such as pesticides;

-- Providing habitat and contiguous travel corridors for wildlife;

-- Stabilizing stream banks and reducing channel erosion;

-- Storing flood waters, thereby decreasing damage to property;

-- Maintaining habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms by moderating water
temperatures and providing woody debris;

-- Improving the aesthetics of stream corridors (which can increase property values);

-- Offering recreational and educational opportunities.

Scientific research suggests that headwater streams comprise between 75\% and 90\% of total stream and river mileage. The importance of protecting and restoring these headwaters cannot be overstated. A recent paper, entitled Where Rivers are Born: The Scientific Imperative for Defending Small Streams and Wetland (Meyer et. al. 2003), stated that '...if we are to continue to make progress toward clean water goals, we must continue to protect these small but crucial waters.' In fact the paper goes on to state that the fishable swimmable goals of the Clean Water Act are not achievable without the careful protection of headwater stream systems. Moreover, the failure to protect small headwater streams can undermine expensive efforts to restore water quality down stream.

Preserving a relatively narrow strip of land along streams and rivers-- land that is frequently unsuitable for other uses-- can help maintain good water quality, provide habitat for wildlife, protect people and buildings against flood waters, and extend the life of reservoirs. The preservation and restoration of natural riparian buffers is considered to be the single most important management practice to protect water resources."

[from Rhode Island Rivers Council Findings and Recommendations: Establishment of Riparian and Shoreline Buffers and the Taxation of Property Included in Buffers: A Report to the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House (January 15, 2005)]

So again-- we're looking to build interest and support for this with this petition, and looking for help from all of you folks out there to aid in working out the details on this idea. If you care about this issue and would like to pass along your thoughts on this to us and others, sign on to this petition, send a letter to [email protected], and pass it along to all you know (and thanks to watershed advocate Mike Purcell of Pawling for giving us this idea to begin with!).

Joel Tyner
Dutchess County Legislature Environmental Committee Chair
County Legislator, Clinton/Rhinebeck
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
[email protected]
(845) 876-2488

[also see: "Georgia Department of Natural Resources: Riparian Buffers in Your Backyard/Benefits of Vegetated Riparian Buffers": -- and Washington State University Department/Natural Resource Sciences' report: "Riparian Buffers: Economic Data": ]

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"Environmental Tax Incentives at the State Level"
by Julie A. Lockhart/Western Washington University

Arkansas's Water Resource Conservation and Development Incentives

Arkansas's problems with ground water depletion prompted the legislation of this income tax credit in 1985. While it has not received a formal evaluation, its perceived success led to an update of the law in 1995.

Specific design features:

o Income tax credit amount: 50 percent for water impoundment systems, 50 percent for the conversion from ground water use to surface water use in critical areas, 10 percent for the conversion from ground water use to surface water use in noncritical areas.

o Maximum credit allowed: $9,000 per year

o Carry-forward of unused credit: 9 years

o Qualifying investment: Construction and installation or restoration of water impoundment or water control structures of twenty acre-feet or more designed for the purpose of storing water to be used exclusively for the irrigation of rice, wheat, soybean, cotton, corn, milo, and fruit and vegetable crops and/or for domestic use.

Arkansas also added a new provision in 1995 for the construction or restoration of ponds, lakes, wetlands, and for improvements to sediment control, erosion control, or aquaculture and wildlife management. Agency personnel hope that farmers will use this provision to create buffer zones around streams to keep cattle and other domestic animals from damaging streams and other sources of surface water.

Specific design features:

o Income tax credit amount: 100 percent of the cost of the project

o Maximum credit allowed: $5,000 per year

o Carry-forward of unused credit: 10 years

o Qualifying investment: Construction and installation or restoration of ponds, lakes, and other water impoundments, and water control structures designed for the purpose of water storage for irrigation, water supply, sediment control, erosion control, or aquaculture and wildlife management. Includes creation and restoration of wetlands and riparian zones, and creation of buffer zones around surface water. Vegetation, fencing, and cattle watering systems all qualify.

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"Understanding the Science Behind Riparian Forest Buffers: Factors Influencing Adoption"

by Julia C. Klapproth, Faculty Assistant-Natural Resources, Maryland Cooperative Extension; James E. Johnson, Extension Forestry Specialist, College of Natural Resources, Virginia Tech
Publication Number 420-154, Posted February 2001

Tax incentives have been used for years to encourage landowners to reforest cut-over timberlands and to reduce tax burdens on agricultural and forested lands. Tax incentives may include a reduction of federal and state income taxes or local property taxes. A recent survey of forest landowners in the Pacific Northwest found that federal tax relief could be a powerful incentive to encourage landowners to restrict harvesting in riparian areas. Fifty percent of landowners surveyed indicated that they would forego harvesting within the riparian area if given a 10-year reduction in federal income taxes (Johnson and others 1997).

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"Riparian Buffer Financial Assistance Opportunities"

by Lori Lynch, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Maryland, and Robert Tjaden, Regional Extension Specialist, Wye Research and Education Center; Fact Sheet 769

Riparian buffers reduce the amount of nonpoint source pollution entering wetlands, lakes, and streams. Buffers also provide fish and wildlife habitats and preserve the ecosystem of the waterways. The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council, tasked with reducing nutrient loading in the Bay, set a goal of establishing 2,010 miles of riparian forest buffers within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed by the year 2010, through voluntary incentive-based programs. The state of Maryland set a goal of establishing 600 miles of riparian forest buffer by 2010.

Landowners interested in creating riparian buffers can take advantage of cost-share programs available for establishing buffers. The most notable is the USDA-CREP (United States Department of Agriculture - Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program). Under this program, landowners who have cropped their agricultural land two out of the past five years or who have marginal pasture that will be converted to trees are eligible for cost-share funding, as well as an annual rental payment for a minimum of ten years up to a maximum of fifteen. The rental payment is based on the landowner's county and the soil types found on the farm. There is also an additional incentive for planting trees and grasses, a 100 percent rental bonus for planting trees and a 80 percent rental bonus for planting grasses in the riparian area.

In cooperation with USDA-CREP, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maryland Department of Agriculture will provide up to 100 percent cost sharing to establish forested buffers and up to 95 percent cost sharing to establish grass buffers. Cost share is also available for livestock watering systems and fence and stream crossings, if necessary for successful buffer establishment. Since there are many organizations offering financial help, it is important you work with your local FSA (Farm Service Agency) and NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) offices. They will provide information on available programs and assist you with the program details and sign-up process. In addition to these cost-share programs, landowners have the option of putting a permanent easement on the land and receiving a lump-sum payment calculated by an established formula. In this case, the riparian area would have to remain a vegetated buffer forever with limited rights to harvest the timber or grass.

Additional cost-share programs to assist landowners in establishing buffers and other conservation practices include the following:

o Maryland State Buffer Incentive Program (BIP) provides a one-time $300 per acre grant for up to 50 acres for tree planting and maintenance along streams and shorelines. A minimum of one acre of buffer is required for eligibility. Participants must maintain the trees for ten years and will only receive payment after the first season if 65 percent of their trees survive. The program requires buffers to be at least 50 feet wide and prohibits planting Christmas trees and orchard trees. The buffer must be adjacent to and within 300 feet of a stream, river, pond, wetland, or other open water, or within the 100-year floodplain. Landowners receiving funds through BIP may also piggyback on other cost-share programs to receive financial assistance.

o Maryland Agricultural Cost Share Program (MACS) will cost share up to 87.5 percent of the cost of a conservation practice with a maximum of $20,000. This program for agricultural producers includes costs of establishing grass buffers, forested buffers, and other stream protection practices such as fences, livestock watering systems, and stabilized stream crossings. This program provides part of the cost-share assistance established under CREP.

o Maryland State Woodland Incentive Program (WIP) provides up to 50 percent cost share with a maximum of $5,000 for one-year or $15,000 for three-year projects involving tree planting, stand improvement, and management to private nonindustrial forest landowners. WIP seeks to enhance the environmental, aesthetic, and wildlife benefits provided by private woodlands while providing the forest resources essential to commerce and industry in the state. Participants must have 10 to 500 contiguous wooded acres capable of producing 20 cubic feet per acre per year. A forest stewardship plan must be prepared or approved by a licensed forester. The trees must be maintained for at least fifteen years. Inspectors must be granted access for periodic inspections. This program cannot be combined with other cost-share programs.

o USDA Stewardship Incentive Program (SIP) provides up to 65 percent cost share for forest management plan development, tree planting, riparian and wetland improvement, and recreation and wildlife habitat improvement. Participants must have at least one acre but less than 1,000 acres of nonindustrial private forestland. For contiguous forested acreage, a forest stewardship plan must be developed. The trees must be maintained for at least ten years.

o USDA Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) provides cost-share and easement payments for restoration of drained wetlands in cropland, pasture, hay land, and woodland. Riparian corridors are also eligible for funding, but only under the following conditions: (1) the corridors must be used to connect two or more wetlands that are permanently protected by an easement or are publicly owned for wildlife habitat purposes; (2) the protected wetlands can be no more than one mile apart; and (3) the corridors must average no more than 300 feet wide on one side, or a total of 600 feet wide if both sides are enrolled. WRP provides up to 75 percent cost share for restoration projects that involve either a ten-year agreement or thirty-year easement, and up to 100 percent cost share for restoration under a permanent easement. Easement payments are based on the agricultural value of the land, not its development value. Other government agencies, as well as nonprofit or private organizations, may provide additional funding for WRP projects.

o USDA Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) helps landowners improve fish and wildlife habitat. Maryland has set priorities in restoring and managing riparian corridors, shallow water habitats, and upland grassland habitats. The NRCS will provide technical assistance to develop a plan and up to 75 percent cost share for installing approved practices. A five- to ten-year cost-share agreement is required. WHIP is primarily targeted toward habitat restoration on private lands. Projects for outdoor education on locally owned public lands (such as public schools) as well as private lands are also eligible for funding. If there are sufficient funds available, NRCS may fund special projects on state, county, and other locally owned lands. NRCS will assist landowners in preparing a wildlife habitat development plan. Acreage currently enrolled in CRP (Conservation Reserve Program), WRP, and similar programs is not eligible. Funds cannot be used on converted wetlands or for mitigation projects.

o USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides up to 75 percent cost share as well as incentive payments, technical assistance, and education to landowners. Conservation practices such as riparian buffers, filter strips, manure management buildings, and wildlife habitat improvement are eligible. There is also incentive payment for landowners who employ nutrient, manure, and integrated pest management practices. Other government agencies or nonprofit groups may provide additional cost share for certain practices.

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This article from the April 24th Gazette Advertiser reminds us all of the importance of riparian buffers...

"Plants May Save Mini Park" by Colin DeVries

RHINEBECK - Over the years, the banks of the stream running through Lions Mini-Park on North Parsonage Street have gradually been eaten away by the babbling Landsman Kill. Recently, though, heavy rains and flooding have accelerated the erosion of the banks and now it's up to the village to put a stop to it. "Hopefully we can help control any further erosion," said Megan Crawford, member of the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC).

The technique the CAC hopes to implement, along with assistance from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), is a riparian buffer planting. Various plants, such as wetland iris, shrubs, trees or flowering plants, will be planted along the banks of the Landsman Kill and in the water around the edge of the bank. "I think we will prevent erosion," said Crawford, "as well as bring other types of bird life to the area."

The DEC program, Trees for Tribs, will provide grant funding for the project, which is slated to begin shortly after the conclusion of the Landsman Kill Stocking Club Fishing Contest in May. The loss of parkland is not the only issue, however. The bridge on North Parsonage Street has also been affected by the eroding soil, which could potentially make the supports of the bridge unstable over time.

To remedy this situation, Highway Foreman George Wyant and the Village Highway Department are working with the DEC to install large boulders and riprap, or rubble, to provide additional support to the bridge. The recent attention to this issue comes after an alarming rate of erosion that began during last spring's heavy rains. Nearly six feet of bank has been eroded away in some areas along the banks of the Landsman Kill since last year.

Trout Unlimited, a conservation group, has also assisted in the project to help preserve one of Rhinebeck's most cherished parks in the heart of the village. DEC and Trout Unlimited officials will begin planting the vegetation, which will anchor the soil from further erosion. Crawford installed stakes of dogwood and willow to provide a temporary solution while the fishing contest is taking place to bide them some time. The submersible stakes will grow roots to assist in soil retention, she said.

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"Spring 2008 'Trees for Tribs' Initiative Scheduled to Begin"
[New York Ag Connection - 04/29/2008]

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Hudson River Estuary Program's "Trees for Tribs" Initiative will be coordinating a number of stream buffer plantings this spring throughout the Hudson River Estuary Watershed. Watershed organizations, land trusts, environmental organizations, municipalities, schools, soil and water conservation districts, private residents, and a local farm will be participating and volunteering in the "Trees for Tribs" Initiative at 29 different project sites through early June. Volunteers will be planting more than 4,500 native trees and shrubs along more than 15,000 ft. of streams and rivers in the Hudson Valley.

Riparian (streamside) buffers are an important aspect of maintaining healthy streams and protecting water quality. These buffers composed of trees, shrubs, and grasses help to reduce pollution entering waterways by slowing down and filtering stormwater runoff. Buffers also help to reduce flooding and erosion by stabilizing streambanks and absorbing high velocity flows. In addition, they serve an important role for wildlife as a shoreline transition zone and travel corridor, not to mention increasing overall biodiversity and improving in-stream health.

The "Trees for Tribs" Initiative is in its 2nd year and is conducted by DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program through a partnership with the New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University.

This list includes a number of the larger and/or public planting projects scheduled for this spring. Additional information including contact information on volunteering, other planting projects, and applying to the "Trees for Tribs" program is available by contacting Kevin Grieser, Hudson River Estuary Program's Riparian Buffer Coordinator at 845-256-3145 or by email at [email protected] .

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"Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program New York State"
[U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency October 2003]

USDA and the State of New York have launched a $62 million Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement to improve water conditions on 30 million acres within New York's 12 major watersheds. USDA will contribute an estimated $52 million and New York State will fund an additional $10 million. The $62 million does not include any costs that may be assumed by producers.

These watersheds serve 55 percent of the state's population.

CREP is a federal-state natural resource conservation program targeted to address state and nationally significant agricultural related environmental problems. Under CREP, program participants receive financial incentives from USDA to voluntarily enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in contracts of 10- to 15-years. Participants remove marginal pastureland or cropland from agricultural production and convert the land to native grasses, trees and other vegetation. CRP is authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended.

The New York CREP will help farmers address erosion and nutrient runoff on 30 million acres of land within New York's 12 major watersheds. Retiring highly erodible cropland and planting it to protective vegetation will enhance water quality and provide shelter, nesting areas and food for many species of wildlife. Buffers planted along stream banks and rivers will filter phosphorus, nitrogen and sedimentation from the waterways.

Producers can offer eligible cropland and marginal pastureland in New York's 12 major watersheds, which serve approximately 55 percent of New York's population. The 12 watersheds are:

-- Lower Hudson River Basin
-- Upper Hudson River Watershed
-- Allegany River Basin
-- Black River/St. Lawrence Watersheds
-- Chesapeake Bay/Susquehana River Watershed
-- Delaware River Watershed
-- Genesee - Oswego - Seneca - Oneida River Watershed
-- Lake Champlain Watershed
-- Lake Erie - Niagara River Watersheds
-- Lake Ontario Direct Drainage Watershed
-- Long Island Sound - Peconic Bay Watershed
-- Mohawk River Watershed.

Public wellhead protection areas, as designated by the New York State Department of Health in accordance with the state's approved wellhead protection program, are eligible for enrollment within these 12 watersheds. Interested producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office for specific information regarding their eligibility for CREP.

The goals of the New York CREP are to:

-- Reduce annual nutrient loads of phosphorus by 73,000 pounds, nitrogen by 29,000 pounds per year and sediments from 109,000 tons per year;

-- Reduce the potential for animal waste to enter streams and rivers;

-- Establish tree buffers adjacent to 4,598 stream miles and 473,457 acres of surface waters; and

-- Establish grass and trees on areas that recharge drinking water supplies for cities and towns.

To better serve program goals, specific CRP conservation practices have been identified for inclusion in the program.

For land qualifying on the basis of erosion, where at least 50 percent of the land is within 1,000 feet of a surface water source and has an erodibility index of 15 or greater (relatively steep-sloping land), the applicable practices are:

CP 1 - Establishment of Permanent Introduced Grasses and Legumes

CP 2 - Establishment of Permanent Native Grasses

CP 3 - Tree Planting

CP 3A - Hardwood Tree Planting

CP 4B - Permanent Wildlife Habitat Corridor, Non-Easement

CP 4D - Permanent Wildlife Habitat, Non-Easement

CP 9 - Shallow Water Areas for Wildlife

CP 10 - Vegetative Cover - Grass - Already Established

CP 11 - Vegetative Cover - Trees - Already Established

CP23 - Wetland Restoration

(A map of the eligible areas is available in USDA Service Centers.)

For wellhead protection areas designated by the New York State Department of Health, the applicable practices are:

CP 1 - Establishment of Permanent Introduced Grasses and Legumes

CP 2 - Establishment of Permanent Native Grasses

CP 3 - Tree Planting

CP 3A - Hardwood Tree Planting

CP 4B - Permanent Wildlife Habitat Corridor, Non-Easement

CP 4D - Permanent Wildlife Habitat, Non-Easement

CP 10 - Vegetative Cover - Grass - Already Established

CP 11 - Vegetative Cover - Trees - Already Established

For lands qualifying as riparian buffers, the applicable practices are:

CP8A - Grass Waterways

CP15A - Establishment of Permanent Vegetative Cover - Contour Grassed Strips

CP21 - Filter Strips (Grass Strips)

CP22 - Riparian Buffers (Trees Planted Next to Streams)

CP29 - Marginal Pastureland Wildlife Habitat Buffer

CP30 - Marginal Pastureland Wetland Buffer

Enrollment will be on a continuous basis beginning Dec. 1, 2003 through Dec. 31, 2007. Cropland must meet cropping history criteria and be physically and legally capable of being cropped in a normal manner. Marginal pastureland is also eligible for enrollment provided it is suitable for use as a buffer practice. Persons who have acreage under an existing CRP contract or an approved offer with a contract pending are not eligible for CREP on that acreage until that contract expires. Other requirements will also apply. Contract terms will be set out in the CRP contract and regulations.

Subject to contract terms and certain limitations, New York CREP participants will be eligible for the following types of USDA payments:

-- Signing Incentive Payment: A one-time payment of $100 to $150 per acre for land enrolled in a grass waterway, riparian buffer or filter strip practice. This payment is made after the contract has been signed and approved.

-- Practice Incentive Payment: A one-time payment equal to about 40 percent of the eligible cost for certain practices. This payment is in addition to up to 50 percent cost-share assistance that USDA will provide for installing eligible practices.

-- Infeasible to Farm Acreage: In cropland where more than 50 percent of a field is enrolled as a buffer, if the remainder of the field (not part of the original offer) is determined as infeasible to farm, then the remainder may be enrolled as part of the practice at regular rental rates. Incentives do not apply for land determined and enrolled as infeasible to farm.

-- Annual Incentive Payments: Annual incentive payments of 145 percent of the established weighted average county soil rental rate, as determined and established by CCC will be used in connection with normal CRP sign-ups for all practices under this agreement.
Annual Rental Payment for the life of the contract: Producers are eligible for a base Soil Rental Rate (SRR) equal to the weighted SRR of the three predominant soils.

-- Cost-Share Assistance: Cost-share assistance of up to 50 percent for the installation of the eligible conservation practices on enrolled land apply.

-- Annual Maintenance Payment: In accordance with Handbook 2-CRP procedure, annual maintenance payments apply.

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