U.S. resumes conservation reserve program

The United States Department of Agriculture announced June 1 that it will resume accepting applications for the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made the announcement calling the CRP “a powerful tool to encourage agricultural producers to set aside unproductive, marginal lands that should not be farmed ….”

Resumption of the voluntary program will reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife and boost soil health, he added.

“The Conservation Reserve Program is an important component of the suite of voluntary conservation programs USDA makes available to agricultural producers, benefiting both the land and wildlife,” he said.

“On the road, I often hear … how popular CRP is for our recreational sector — hunters, fishermen, conservationists and bird watchers.”

Local offices of the U.S. Farm Service Agency stopped accepting applications last fall for the CRP continuous signup.

The pause allowed the USDA to review available acres and avoid exceeding the 24 million-acre CRP cap set by the 2014 U.S. farm bill.

Participation in the program is limited to ensure that landowners with the most sensitive acreage are enrolled.

Enrolment restrictions are also aimed at avoiding unintended competition with new and beginning farmers seeking leases, a USDA news release said.

CRP enrolment currently stands at about 22.7 million acres.

FSA offices use updated soil rental rates to determine annual rental payments.

Farmers who enroll in the CRP receive annual rental payments.

Contracts last between 10 and 15 years.

CRP pays producers who remove sensitive lands from production and plant certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

The program was signed into law in 1985 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

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