A bipartisan group of 17 senators sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue Oct. 17 urging the secretary to prioritize enrollment and implementation of State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement in future continuous Conservation Reserve Program signups.
Since SAFE enrollment began in 2008, more than 2 million acres have been enrolled. According to Farm Service Agency numbers, 36 states have at least one SAFE project and 11 states have more than 90% of their allocated acres enrolled. USDA has not made these practices available for signups on a nationwide basis since 2017.
“We are concerned that the decision to limit the practices and associated cost-share incentives available in recent continuous sign-ups and excluding wildlife practices like SAFE will decrease landowner interest in CRP and the effectiveness of the program,” the senators wrote.
SAFE was created to allow states to design CRP practices that maintain the program’s soil and water conservation benefits while targeting specific wildlife species and habitats. SAFE allows projects and practices to be designed to address specific species needs.
Senators signing the letter:
- John Thune, R-South Dakota;
- Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota;
- Tina Smith, D-Minnesota;
- Richard J. Durbin, D-Illinois;
- Jerry Moran, R-Kansas;
- Roy Blunt, R-Missouri;
- Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio;
- Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan;
- Michael Bennet, D-Colorado;
- John Boozman, R-Arkanasas;
- Michael Rounds, R-South Dakota;
- Rob Portman, R-Ohio;
- Cory Gardner, R-Colorado;
- Gary Peters, D-Michigan;
- John Hoeven, R-North Dakota;
- Patty Murray, D-Washington;
- Jon Tester, Montana.
In testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Oct. 17, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Stephen Censky said the FSA will hold a general CRP signup in December 2019, with a CRP Grasslands signup to follow.
The 2018 Farm Bill not only continues the CRP, but also adds a new initiative, the CSP Grassland Conservation Initiative, which is designed to assist producers in protecting grazing land uses. Signup for this program began on June 10 and to date nearly 12,000 applications for 826,628 acres have been received, Censky said in testimony.