Indiana's leaders in agriculture gathered recently to present a check for $41,000 to Kenny Farrrington. He received the check form the state for completing 102.6 acres of bottomland tree planting along the Wabash River in Vermillion County.
It was the first check written by the state since Lt. Governor Skillman and other dignitaries met at Mike Starkey's farm near Brownsburg late last summer, in 2010, and ceremoniously ushered in expansion of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. The expansion quadrupled the size of the area of the state where landowners and farmers were eligible to apply for CREP money.
The beauty of the CREP program is that it includes federal matching dollars. For every dollar that Indiana invests, the federal government invests several dollars, returning that to Indiana's economy.
Skillman was part of announcing the very first CREP project during her first year as Secretary of Agriculture in 2005. That occurred on the Tony Hession farm, also near Brownsburg.
The land doesn't have to be planted in trees to become part of a CREP project, officials note. It does involve removal of land from ag production, but the land can be converted to native greases, wetlands or other vegetation besides trees.
While presenting the first check is a great accomplishment, the nearly 11-month delay between the announcement of the program and the implementation of payment for a project completed underscores the point that the government moves slowly, even when it moves in the right direction and does the right thing.
One of the problems that can hang up state participation in government programs, although not necessarily the issue here, is that there's a difference between the legislature allotting money for Clean Water Indiana, where the funds flow through, and the internal bean counters actually releasing the money.
In past years, there have been times when money the legislature allocated was never received by Clean Water Indiana, because it was never released for a specific project, sources note. This year, the legislature first zeroed out $500,000 for Clean Water Indiana during the next two years, based upon Governor Daniels submitted budget. When the smoke cleared however, thanks to the diligent efforts of Ray McCormick and others, the money was restored. McCormick, Vincennes, is president of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
What's encouraging is now money is actually being released for use in getting conservation on the ground and improving the environment.