USDA on March 26 announced more than 3.4 million acres were accepted in the recent general Conservation Reserve Program sign-up, the first general enrollment since 2016. County offices will begin notifying producers with accepted offers no later than April 3.
Through CRP, farmland owners receive an annual rental payment for establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and landowners who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to the nation’s environment and economy.
“The Conservation Reserve Program is one of our nation’s largest conservation endeavors and is critical in helping producers better manage their operations while conserving valuable natural resources,” says Amanda DeJong, executive director for FSA in Iowa. “The program marked its 35th anniversary this year, and we were quite pleased to see one of our largest sign-ups in many years.”
CRP’s 35-year success
Over these 35 years, CRP has addressed multiple concerns while ensuring the most competitive offers are selected by protecting fragile and environmentally sensitive lands, improving water quality, enhancing wildlife populations, providing pollinator forage habitat, sequestering carbon in soil and enhancing soil productivity.
“About 70% of the nation’s land is owned and tended privately, and America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have willingly stepped up to protect the environment and natural resources,” DeJong says.
This recent general sign-up included offers for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, which allows producers to install practices that benefit high-priority, locally developed wildlife conservation objectives using targeted restoration of vital habitat.
Over 95% of SAFE offers submitted were accepted under this general sign-up, representing more than 487,500 acres. This acceptance level highlights the commitment to SAFE as an important part of CRP.
The 2018 Farm Bill established a nationwide acreage limit for CRP, with the total number of acres that may be enrolled capped at 24.5 million acres in 2020 and growing to 27 million by 2023. For state-by-state information on general sign-up results, visit fsa.usda.gov/crp.
Other sign-ups for CRP
While the deadline to sign up for general CRP signup was Feb. 28, sign-ups for continuous CRP, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, CRP Grasslands, and the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) are ongoing. The CRP Grasslands deadline is May 15, and the SHIPP sign-up begins March 30 and ends Aug. 21.
Continuous and Grasslands enrollments are available nationwide. All counties located within the prairie pothole region states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota are eligible for SHIPP. Also, this spring, the Farm Service Agency is rolling out a new pilot conservation program, the Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers 30 (CLEAR 30).
USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and fieldwork will continue with appropriate social distancing. While the USDA program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone, and using online tools whenever possible.
All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other USDA Service Center agency are required to call their service center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.