The Conservation Reserve Program remains popular in Texas
A few years ago, no one knew for certain if the CRP would continue as it had in earlier years. Some landowners were not sure if the opportunity to re-enroll their land or to make new bids would be available for the widespread USDA program.
Born out of the Dust Bowl as a way to combat erosion, the demand for the CRP has remained strong as the NRCS prepares to develop more than 4,000 conservation plans for contracts in Texas.
This historic conservation program has continued into its 43rd general signup. Farm Service Agency's Acting Executive Director James B. Douglass in Texas announced recently that 767,242 acres were accepted into the new signup in Texas, with the total number of active CRP acres in the state now exceeding 3.3 million.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains region assume the majority of the total enrolled acres in the state with 3,800 conservation plans to be developed by August 10, 2012.
Conservation plans are not contracts, but rather a record of objectives planned out by the producer working with NRCS. The plan is a road map aimed to help producers protect and improve their land.
As the primary technical agency, NRCS' role in CRP is to work with participants to establish permanent grass cover based on the participant's decisions during the sign-up period. Decisions are recorded in a conservation plan developed by NRCS.
"The process begins with technical assistance to landowners enrolled in the program to plan approved grass plantings and species, weed control options, dead litter covers, and additional supporting practices depending on a producer's enrollment," says Mickey Black, NRCS assistant state conservationist, Lubbock.
All participants with approved acreage for sign-up 43 will be contacted by the NRCS to schedule field visits for vegetative evaluations to determine what additional, if any, grass species will need to be planted to meet program requirements. Producers will have the opportunity to be present during the inspections to ask any questions and be involved in the process.
"NRCS started conducting field evaluations once producers were notified of their acceptance," says Brandt Underwood, NRCS agronomist for the High Plains region. "Some of our NRCS resource teams have as many as 900 conservation planning documents to develop."