St. Paul Debate over the permanent easement option in the next
round of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program heated up
On Monday, CREP supporters from state environmental and
conservation groups rendezvoused with agricultural interests who
oppose the permanent easement option in the set-aside program.
The next day, several state farm groups and representatives from
the U.S. Department of Agriculture were scheduled to meet with Gov.
Tim Pawlenty and his staff to air their grievances with Minnesota’s
application for another 100,000 CREP acres. According to Dan
Wolter, director of communications in the governor’s office, that
meeting was postponed when Pawlenty made a last-minute flight to
Grand Forks, N.D.
In Minnesota River Valley CREP from 1999 to 2002, landowners
chose to enroll nearly 98 percent of the acres that entered the
program as permanent easements versus the 20- and 35-year options.
The governor’s proposal for the second round of CREP, which targets
the Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota, the Mississippi
watershed in the southeast, and southwestern Minnesota, includes
35-year and permanent easements options for landowners.
Several farm organizations in the state, as well as U.S.
congressional representatives, have said they oppose the permanent
easement option altogether. That prompted the meeting with the
governor this week, which concerned conservation groups who support
In a Star Tribune story on Tuesday, Dec. 9, Wolter said the
governor’s office was “committed to shaping a compromise.” Asked by
Outdoor News on Tuesday to outline possible compromise positions,
Wolter said the governor wasn’t willing to discuss what may be on
the table “at this time.”
“Gov. Pawlenty is committed to making CREP work as an effective
conservation program,” he said.
John Tuma, a former Republican state legislator who now lobbies
for the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, said on Tuesday that
his organization isn’t interested in compromising much on CREP.
“We’ll listen respectfully to their concerns, but we feel this
is a compromise application already,” he said. “With CRP and other
set-aside programs, there are other temporary (easement) options.
If you asked us, they should all be permanent.
And despite the opposition of John Monson, Minnesota director of
the U.S. Farm Service Agency to the latest CREP application, Tuma
believes the USDA will still accept it, noting FSA’s opposition to
Minnesota River Valley CREP in the late 1990s.
“I think the application is good,” he said.
Judy Erickson, CREP coalition coordinator, confirmed that on
Tuesday, supporters of CREP sat down with representatives from the
agricultural side of the debate as well as local government
leaders. She said the disagreement remains “at a standstill” but
that lines of communication remain open.
“We’re continuing to talk, but there are some basic
philosophical differences that we somehow need to overcome,” she