USDA offers new program to put grasslands, wetlands into CRP |

USDA offers new program to put grasslands, wetlands into CRP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has unveiled a new program that will offer financial incentives for farmers to enroll up to 1 million new acres of grasslands and wetlands into the conservation reserve program.

The government pays farmers to idle about 30 million acres of erodible land. However, contracts on about 6.5 million acres expire Sept. 30. With high corn and soybean prices there is concern that farmers might put more of the land into production to increase profitability.

Soybean prices, for example, surged 9.5 percent in February to close the month at $13.13 a bushel, the highest they’ve traded in five months.

The new program focuses on encouraging land to be set aside for wetlands restoration, increasing enrolled land by 200,000 acres. Grasslands enrollment increases by 700,000 acres, including land for duck nesting and upland bird habitat. The program also establishes 100,000 new acres to be set aside for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

By rolling out new programs and offering signup incentives, the USDA hopes to maintain the level of erodible farmland in the CRP program at the current level of about 30 million acres, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the AP in an interview.

The department also expects to see conservation programs come under close scrutiny in the budget process as cuts loom.

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