CREP encourages farmers to place environmentally sensitive land near streams or other approved water bodies into a vegetative cover for a period of time. In return, landowners receive annual payments and are reimbursed for establishing conservation practices. Landowners choosing to enroll in a 30-year or permanent easement will also receive a one-time state incentive payment and may also be eligible to receive a tax incentive.
A CREP conservation easement is a written agreement between a landowner and the state of North Carolina in which there is an acquired interest in the land to install conservation practices that protect natural resources. The conservation easement exists for 10-, 15-, 30 years or permanently, depending on the landowner's choice. With CREP, the landowner voluntarily limits future use of the land for activities such as crop farming and development, yet retains private ownership.
Landowners in the approved watersheds are eligible for CREP. Currently, that includes 76 counties in North Carolina. To be eligible, cropland must meet cropping history criteria and be able to sustain cropping as of the landowner's program enrollment date. Marginal pastureland may be enrolled provided it is suitable for use as a riparian buffer.