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USDA Accepts 2.8 Million Acres in CRP, 2.5 Million Acres Added to Grassland CRP
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has enrolled 2.8 million acres into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) including almost 1.9 million acres through the General CRP Signup, and over 902,000,000 acres through the Continuous Signup. In addition, USDA announced on September 10 that it had accepted more than 2.5 million acres into the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program, doubling the enrollment from the previous year and bringing total acres in Grassland CRP to more than 5.3 million acres. Continuous Signup for CRP remains open so additional acres are expected to be added to the program ultimately adding well more than the 3 million acres set to expire this year.
“Despite Congress raising the enrollment target in the 2018 Farm Bill, there have been decreases in enrollment for the past two years. The changes we made this spring have put us on the path to reverse this trend,” Farm Services Agency (FSA) Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said. “Even with the improved direction, USDA will still be about 4 million acres below the enrollment target. The CRP benefits for producers, sportsmen, wildlife, conservation, and climate are numerous and well documented. We cannot afford to let them to be left on the table.”
USDA targets highly erodible lands as well as wetlands and stream buffers through the Continuous CRP program allowing producers to conserve the most environmentally sensitive parts of their operation while maintaining most of their land for production agriculture. This year, 20,000 acres were offered through the Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers Initiative 30-year (CLEAR-30) and 296,000 acres were submitted for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practices; SAFE was moved back under the Continuous Signup earlier this year. Through the General CRP signup, FSA introduced a Climate-Smart Practice Incentive to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions offering a 3%, 5%, or 10% incentive payment based on the primary vegetation (grasses, trees, and wetland restoration).
Through Grassland CRP, producers can conserve grasslands, rangelands, and pastures while continuing to be able to conduct grazing practices as well as haying, mowing, and harvesting seed based on approved conservation plans. The newly enrolled acres included 1.1 million acres within two new priority zones established by USDA: the Greater Yellowstone Elk Migratory Corridor focused on counties in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming; and the Historical Dust Bowl Region including counties in Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. These priority areas include the range of lesser prairie-chickens and sage grouse, species that are part of broader USDA wildlife habitat initiatives.
“Grasslands sequester an incredible amount of carbon in their roots that is resilient even during drought and wildfire, while also providing good wildlife habitat and grazing opportunities for producers and landowners; because there is no better way to increase soil health than with thoughtful animal impact,” Ducheneaux continued. “This year, we rolled out improvements to Grassland CRP, including priority zones for elk migration and vulnerable soils, and we were pleased to see this level of interest from conservation-minded producers across the country. This is a powerful program, and we want to continue to grow interest in Grassland CRP as well as other CRP signups in the coming years.”
Under the 2018 Farm Bill the nationwide acreage limit for CRP was set at 25 million for FY2021 and will increase to 27 million acres by FY2023. Currently 20.6 million acres are enrolled in the program and with the more than 5.3 million acres accepted for enrollment this year, about 22.9 million acres will be enrolled in CRP in 2022.