The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week that it will resume signups for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) under both general and continuous enrollment beginning Monday, Dec. 9.
Established in 1985, CRP is considered one of the nation’s most successful private lands conservation programs. The general signup is the first held since 2016 and will run through Feb. 28.
CRP is a voluntary program that provides a secure income stream to farmers, ranchers, and other landowners as an incentive to establish long-term, resource-conserving cover on their land. The program is an integral part of the safety net for rural America, both financially and ecologically, and provides a wide range of wildlife, water quality, and soil health benefits.
The land enrolled in CRP is vital for maintaining waterfowl populations and the wetland and grassland habitats they rely on. These habitats include critical upland nesting cover for ducks in the Prairie Pothole Region, one of Ducks Unlimited’s (DU) highest priority areas. In addition to the new signups, the USDA announced a number of program changes that could negatively impact interest in high-priority wetland and wildlife practices that have been a core part of the program’s success.
“The Conservation Reserve Program has long been one of the most effective voluntary conservation tools available to private landowners as they seek to be good stewards of the land,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam. “CRP signups resuming is great news for wetlands conservation, waterfowl habitat, and waterfowl hunters and we urge USDA to use every tool at their disposal to ensure that demand for the program and its high-value wetland practices remains strong. We look forward to working with the USDA and our partners to continue the success of this vital program.”
The 2018 Farm Bill increased the acreage cap for CRP to 27 million acres nationwide by 2023. Between this increase and expiring contracts, an expected 8 million acres will be available to enroll under general and continuous signups, and USDA officials are anticipating one of the largest signups in recent history. DU urges the USDA to utilize all signup options and available incentives to maintain enrollment levels as close to the statutory cap as possible to meet demand and provide maximum benefits.
To find out how you can sign up, visit the CRP website.