Conservation Buffers on your Land

Considering conservation buffers on your land?  The USDA has 250,000 or more buffer contracts with about 160,000 farms and ranches. They may be a good choice for your land and for the environment. They are also economically viable for most operations.  The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is one of the programs that provide financial incentives for farmers and ranchers.

Conservation buffers are areas or strips of permanent vegetation established around and in cropland. They are placed between surface water areas and agricultural fields. The buffers range in width from 40 feet to 150 feet.

What do Buffers do?

  • Minimize Soil Erosion
  • Intercept & Buffer Pollutants
  • Improve Water & Air Quality
  • Enhance Wildlife Habitat
  • Conserve, Beautify & Protect

Types of Buffers

  • Grassland waterways
  • Shelterbelts/Windbreaks
  • Living Snow Fences
  • Wetland Restoration
  • Filter Strips & Trap Strips
  • Shallow Water Areas
  • Farmable Wetland Buffers

Why Use Buffers?

  • Signing Payments up to $150 per acre
  • Up to 50% Cost Sharing for Implementation
  • Annual Rental Incentives from 10-40%

Programs for Assistance with Establishing Buffers
Many groups like Pheasants Forever and Quail Unlimited strongly support buffers and provide support and assistance. Even rural farm land loan lenders consider them a good choice. Combing land conservation with farming is possible with the many different programs available. The largest program is the CCRP but other programs are available to help landowners offset the cost of installing buffers on their land.  Some of the programs to learn about include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

Managing and Maintaining Conservation Buffers
Buffers should be managed in accordance with an overall plan for the entire piece of land for them to be most effective.  By coordinating your efforts you can minimize the runoff and sediment that reaches the buffers to begin with. Buffers must be maintained to work and remain efficient and productive.

How to Maintain Buffers

  • Mowing & Weed Control
  • Controlled Grazing
  • Hay Harvesting
  • Removing Sediment Deposits
  • Minimize Heavy Equipment Traffic on Buffer Land

The Effect of Buffers on the Area
Maintaining buffers can truly help the water quality on your land. They can help reduce field runoff and soil erosion and easily integrated into other existing on your property. Conservation buffers help reduce sediment and agricultural chemicals that build up in surface water tables.  The vegetation helps soak up the runoff and in turn the nutrients help the vegetation. Buffers can reduce runoff from 50-100%.  They also help with erosion control and they give what was probably wasteland some income which increase profitability on your investment.

Buffers are flexible in size, relatively easy to maintain, protect the land and many resources are available to help establish them on your property.  For more information on buffers contact your local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) or Farm Service Agency (FSA) where you own your land and ask about the buffer conservation programs or visit the USDA website.  Also contact your local state foresty office.