FAQ: We have some highly erodible land in the Conservation Reserve Program. We keep hearing about the federal government possibly cutting back conservation programs to save money. What is the current status of the CRP program? How much money did the CRP program pay out this year?
Answer: Provided by Beth Grabau, public information officer at the Iowa FSA office in Des Moines, and Vickie Friedow, program specialist at the state FSA office in Iowa.
USDA distributed Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental payments to participants across the country this month. The payments are made once a year. USDA’s Farm Service Agency administers the CRP, while technical support functions are provided by public and private sector partners.
CRP is a voluntary conservation program that helps agricultural producers safeguard environmentally sensitive land and provide millions of acres of habitat for game and non-game wildlife species. Participants enroll in CRP contracts for 10 to 15 years. Currently, total CRP enrollment stands at 29.9 million acres nationwide.
There are two options for CRP program enrollment. You can enroll in the general CRP program, which is offered periodically—as determined by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Or a producer can enroll in the continuous CRP which is always open for enrollment. The continuous CRP is to be used for special conservation practices, such as installing buffer strips next to streams.
CRP helps farmers take better care of fragile land, protect water quality
The Conservation Reserve Program is a very important USDA program, helping farmers take better care of their land and helping protect water quality. Iowa landowners continue to add acres in the continuous enrollment CRP, which is especially valuable in targeting benefits to the most sensitive acres. Over 50,000 Iowa farms have at least some of their acres enrolled in CRP, with payments to Iowa landowners exceeding $200 million in 2011.
“CRP protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion and is designed to safeguard the America’s natural resources,” says FSA administrator Bruce Nelson. “By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country.”
USDA makes annual rental payments for CRP, and provides cost-share assistance
USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) makes the annual rental payments based on the agriculture rental value of the land, and it provides cost-share assistance for up to 50% of the participant's costs in establishing approved conservation practices.
USDA also issues non-rental CRP payments throughout the year. These are cost-share payments such as a 50% expense reimbursement for establishing and managing cover as well as incentive payments for enrolling eligible high priority conservation practices.
Iowa ranks sixth among all states in number of acres enrolled in CRP
As of October 6, 2011 U.S. producers holding 752,000 contracts on 417,000 farms will receive an average CRP rental payment of $55.06 per acre. Producers will earn an average payment of $4,115 per farm enrolled in the program. Included in the totals are 414,000 contracts (5.1 million acres) for continuous CRP enrollments and 338,000 contracts (24.8 million acres) enrolled under general CRP. In all, the payments total approximately $1.7 billion.
In terms of number of acres enrolled, the top six states are: Texas 3,457,323; Montana 2,860,998; Kansas 2,736,915; North Dakota 2,648,185; Colorado 2,235,943 and Iowa 1,666,077.
A table located at fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/apportstate091311.pdf lists acreage enrollments by state, number of contracts, number of farms and acres enrolled as of the end of the 2011 fiscal year and CRP projected rental payments for fiscal year 2012.
If you have specific questions or need details on USDA farm programs, contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency or other appropriate USDA agency office. And be sure to read the regular column of “Frequently Asked Questions about the Farm Program” appearing in each issue of Wallaces Farmer magazine and at www.WallacesFarmer.com.