Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reminds farmers and ranchers that the next general enrollment period for the Conservation Reserve Program ends on Feb. 26, 2016. Also, December 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of CRP, a federally funded program that assists agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce the loss of wildlife habitat.
Softens Economic Hardship
Participants in CRP establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as “covers”) to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. The Farm Service Agency provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. At times when commodity prices are low, enrolling sensitive lands in CRP can be especially attractive to farmers and ranchers, as it softens the economic hardship for landowners at the same time that it provides ecological benefits.
Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish native plant species on marginal agricultural lands for the primary purpose of preventing soil erosion and improving water quality and related benefits of reducing loss of wildlife habitat.
Contracts on 1.64 million acres of CRP are set to expire Sept. 30, 2016. Producers with expiring
contracts or farmers with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate options under CRP.
Since it was established on Dec. 23, 1985, CRP has:
- Prevented more than 9 billion tons of soil from eroding – enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks;
- Reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff on annually tilled land by 95 and 85 percent, respectively;
- Sequestered an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking 9 million cars off the road.
Since 1996, CRP has created nearly 2.7 million acres of restored wetlands.
To learn more, visit your FSA office or www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.
The Conservation Reserve Program was re-authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Since enactment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers, strengthening risk management tools and expanding access to rural credit.
Additional provisions of the CRP are funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.
USDA contributed this article.