June 11, 2020
For better and for worse, farmers know how water flows through their land. When rain falls, it must go somewhere – usually into local streams that eventually flow into larger bodies of water such as the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, or the Chesapeake Bay.
In recent years, there have been reports of increased levels of hypoxia in waterways, a condition in which oxygen levels are depleted to such a degree that fish and other wildlife are stressed or killed. Hypoxia often is caused by high levels of nutrient loading – often from excessive fertilizer or manure – that causes the growth of algae in the water.
If it is severe enough, hypoxia in tributaries can lead to major “dead zones” at the terminus of a river or estuarine system that are vital to supporting local wildlife, regional economies, and trade. There are news stories every year that track the development and impacts of dead zones, most recently in Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.
What is CLEAR?
In order to address the problem of hypoxia and widespread dead zones, in 2017 the Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers program (CLEAR) was established. This program, championed by NSAC and created by Congress, provides direct financial support to farmers that want to implement conservation practices such as buffers, grass waterways, filter strips, and other practices that reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. CLEAR is open for enrollment in every state across the country for interested farmers.
What is CLEAR30?
This is also the first year of a new pilot program called CLEAR30. CLEAR30 will provide eligible farmers and landowners in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds with a 30-year contract to continue conservation practices that keep our waterways clean and healthy. CLEAR30 is focused on building on the successes of CLEAR and other important water quality improvement programs within the Conservation Reserve Program.
You may be eligible for CLEAR30 if you have an expiring CLEAR contract, continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Cropland water-quality contract, or certain CRP buffer contracts. The payment will be equal to current Continuous Conservation Reserve Program payments, plus an adjustment for inflation (27.5 percent), given the length of these new contracts.
CLEAR30 is available in the following states:
If you are interested in signing up for CLEAR, reach out to your local FSA office.
If you are interested in signing up for CLEAR30, enrollment closes on August 21, 2020. For additional information, please take a look at USDA’s press release on CLEAR30 or reach out to your local FSA office.