USDA sees strong demand for Conservation Reserve Program

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reminding farmers and ranchers that the competitive sign-up deadline for its most popular voluntary conservation program, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), is Feb. 26. This will be one of the most competitive general sign-up periods in history, in part due to a statutory limit on the number of acres that can be enrolled in the program. The most competitive applications will be those that combine multiple conservation benefits, such as water quality and wildlife habitat.
For the past thirty years, CRP has provided financial incentives to farmers and ranchers to remove environmentally sensitive agricultural land from production to be planted with certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat. Since 1985, CRP has sequestered an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking nine million cars off the road; prevented nine billion tons of soil from erosion, enough to fill 600 million dump trucks; and reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff by 95 and 85 percent, respectively.The program also has allowed for the restoration of 2.7 million acres of wetland and protects more than 170,000 stream miles with forests and grasses, enough to go around the world seven times.
“Since the start of this Administration, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Conservation Reserve Program has been and continues to be a key piece of USDA’s conservation strategy, and with this competitive sign-up we are encouraging applications that offer the greatest environmental protection.”
As of January 2016, 23.6 million acres were enrolled in CRP, with contracts for more than 1.6 million acres set to expire this fall. The statutory cap on acres that can be enrolled is 24 million acres. Submissions will be ranked according to environmental benefits in comparison to all other offers nationwide. USDA will announce accepted offers after the enrollment period ends and offers are reviewed.
For more information on Farm Service Agency (FSA) conservation programs, visit a local FSA office or www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation. To find your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

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