USDA to accept more than 2M acres in CRP

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the Agriculture Department is accepting more than 2 million acres in offers from agricultural producers and landowners through the Conservation Reserve Program, which idles land for environmental and wildlife benefits.

But in a sign that high commodity prices have led producers and landowners to put land back in production, Vilsack also noted that producers submitted re-enrollment offers for just over half of expiring acres, similar to the rate in 2021. And he said that offers for new land under General CRP were considerably lower compared to last year’s numbers, with fewer than 400,000 acres being offered this year versus over 700,000 acres offered last year.

With about 3.4 million acres expiring this year, Vilsack encouraged producers and landowners to consider the Grassland and Continuous signups, both of which are open now.

“Our conservation programs are voluntary, and at the end of the day, producers are making market-based decisions as the program was designed to allow and encourages,” Vilsack said.

“We recognize the Conservation Reserve Program is an important tool in helping mitigate climate change and conserve natural resources, and this announcement is just the first opportunity for producers to take advantage of the program. Producers are still looking at options under the working-lands Grassland Conservation Reserve Program, the more targeted buffer-type practices under Continuous CRP, and partnership opportunities through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

“For farmers who have decided to return all or a portion of their land into production agriculture, USDA will also be reaching out to ensure they understand and can take advantage of options to either prepare the land for production or transition it to beginning farmers.”

USDA said it is important to note that submitting and accepting a CRP offer is the start of the process, and that producers still need to develop a conservation plan before enrolling their land on Oct. 1, 2022. Each year, during the window between offer acceptance and land enrollment, some producers change their mind and ultimately decide not to enroll some accepted acres without penalty, USDA noted.

The three other types of CRP — Grassland, Continuous, and CREP — are still available for either working-lands or targeted, often smaller sub-field, offers. Producers have submitted offers on nearly 260,000 acres through the Continuous and CREP signup so far this year.

The Grassland signup — which last year had its highest participation ever — closes May 13. The General CRP signup ran from Jan. 31 to March 11.

Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest voluntary private-lands conservation programs in the United States. It was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing many conservation and economic benefits.

In 2021, the Farm Service Agency introduced improvements to the program, which included a new Climate-Smart Practice Incentive to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This incentive provides a 3%, 5% or 10% incentive payment based on the predominant vegetation type for the practices enrolled — from grasses to trees to wetland restoration.

The 2018 farm bill established a nationwide acreage limit for CRP, with the total number of acres that may be enrolled capped at 25 million acres in 2021 and growing to 27 million by 2023.


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