Come May 20, farmers can sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program. The four-week window ends June 14. The latest sign-up was announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Minneapolis on Saturday.
CRP has a 27-year legacy of protecting resources through voluntary participation, while providing an economic boost to rural communities. During Vilsack's tenure at USDA, the agency has enrolled 11.7 million acres in various CRP efforts. In a press statement, Vilsack notes:
"Since the 1980s, the CRP program has established itself as a benchmark in voluntary conservation efforts, providing American producers with assets to address our most critical resource issues. Last year, during one of the worst droughts in generations, the program proved vital in protecting our most environmentally sensitive lands from erosion. Emergency haying and grazing on CRP lands also supplied critical feed and forage for livestock producers due to the drought. And the program continues to bring substantial returns to rural areas, attracting recreation and tourism dollars into local economies while sustaining natural and wildlife habitat for future generations."
More sign-ups for continuous CRP programs - including the Highly Erodible Land Initiative and Initiative to Restore Grasslands, Wetlands and Wildlife - will be announced in the spring.
Currently 27 million acres are enrolled in the program, which is voluntary and available to producer to help safeguard environmentally sensitive land. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. Contracts on 2.2 million acres of CRP are set to expire on Sept. 30, 2013. Producers with expiring contracts or producers with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate their options under CRP.
Producers that are accepted in the sign-up can receive cost-share assistance to plant long-term, resource-conserving covers and receive an annual rental payment for the length of the contract (10-15 years). Producers also are encouraged to look into CRP's other enrollment opportunities offered on a continuous, non-competitive, sign-up basis and that often provide additional financial assistance. Continuous sign-up dates will be announced at a later date.
In it's announcement, USDA highlighted some benefits of the 27-year-old program:
CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and two million acres of riparian buffers;
Each year, the program keeps more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorous from flowing into our nation's streams, rivers, and lakes.
CRP provides $1.8 billion annually to landowners—dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs; and
CRP is the largest private lands carbon sequestration program in the country. By placing vulnerable cropland into conservation, CRP sequesters carbon in plants and soil, and reduces both fuel and fertilizer usage. In 2012, CRP resulted in carbon sequestration equal to taking about nine million cars off the road.
For more information on CRP and other FSA programs, visit a local FSA service center or www.fsa.usda.gov.