The Conservation Reserve Program was created in the 1985 Farm Bill and has remained through seven farm bills. During that time, the program has evolved quite a bit. Payment rates, eligibility conditions, acreage caps and seeding requirements have changed, but the basics of the program have stayed constant — for the most part.
The continuous sign-up CRP option is a subset of CRP that targets both environmentally sensitive land and specific environmental practices. The CCRP option offers several important benefits to help landowners address site-specific resource concerns:
No sign-up periods. Unlike regular CRP, offers to enroll in CCRP can be made at any time. You don’t have to wait.
Better targeting. This is an especially important point for water quality, in that most of the eligible practices are intended to protect water resources and land enrolled must be suitable for these practices. Grass waterways, filter strips, buffers and wetlands all qualify.
No competitive bidding. Unlike general CRP, payment rates are calculated following a formula based on soil type and local conditions. CCRP also provides a one-time signup incentive payment of 32.5% of the annual rental payment.
Head off potential regulations. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture now has in place a rule limiting some nitrogen applications. Wellhead recharge areas for public water supplies could be significantly affected. Wellhead protection practices are also eligible under CCRP.
Higher payment rates. The Farm Service Agency reports that as of January 2020, payment rates for CCRP in Minnesota average $160 per acre, compared to $75 for general CRP acres.
Many Minnesota landowners must be wise to the advantages of CCRP already. Nationally, about 35% of all acres enrolled in CRP are in CCRP. Here in Minnesota, CCRP enrollment accounts for 70% of all CRP acres.
I encourage landowners to know their options. Many report that they like the opportunity to idle smaller areas, targeting the most environmentally sensitive areas, and the certainty of knowing rental rates without the bid-wait-and-see process of general CRP.
If you are interested in CCRP, talk to your local Farm Service Agency for more details.
Formo is executive director of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center.