Dallenbachs put 258 acres in government program Jim Dallenbach and sons Terry and Chad, who farm along the floodplain of the Cottonwood River in southwestern Minnesota, got tired of fighting flooded-out crops.

So the Walnut Grove-area farmers opted to be the first in their state to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). They're happy they did because both they and the environment benefited.

CREP is a state-federal land retirement conservation program addressing national water quality, soil erosion and wildlife habitat issues related to ag use.

Other states with approved programs include Maryland, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. States with proposals submitted include Wyoming, Idaho, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri and North Dakota.

The program focuses on floodplains and wetland restoration, and utilizes practices such as riparian buffers, filter strips and cover crops to reduce flooding and soil erosion and provide wildlife cover, according to USDA officials.

There is an initial cap of 100,000 acres allowed for any state. Producer enrollment is voluntary and will be offered on a continuous basis. Like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), CREP is administered by USDA's Farm Service Agency.

The Dallenbachs each own land separately but use the same machinery. They farm about 4,000 acres, with 3,200 acres in corn and soybeans, and have enrolled 379 acres in conservation programs.

What was their motivation?

"For me it was the flooding problem on our floodplain land," notes Terry. "At least half the years, I was putting a lot of money into crop inputs, then getting flooded out. The CREP program seemed like a safe way out to be guaranteed at least some profit."

Adds Jim: "If the crop flooded out and you collected crop insurance, then the premiums went up. This floodplain was some of our richest soil, but the floods also brought soybean cyst nematodes, which reduced our soybean yields."

The Dallenbach family enjoys both wildlife watching and hunting, and the native grass cover established in the spring of '98 has been a magnet for wildlife, including deer, pheasants and turkeys.

"We love the outdoors and the wildlife," says Jim. "And the heavy grass cover, with native grasses and wildflowers, has really helped clean up the river water. The deep-rooted grasses hold the soil in place instead of letting it end up in the Gulf of Mexico."

Payments vary among states because of state and local contributions. The Dallenbachs' initial enrollment payment from the state varied from $500 to $700 an acre. They get a per-acre payment varying from $100 to $120 from the federal government for the 15-year term of the program.

For information on CREP, check with your Farm Service Agency office.