Producers interested in enrolling acres in the Conservation Reserve Program should call ahead to their local USDA field office to begin sign ups starting Jan. 31 until March 11 for General CRP and April 4 until May 13 for the Grassland CRP.
“We highly encourage farmers, ranchers and private landowners to consider the enrollment options available through CRP,” says Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency. “Last year, we rolled out a better, bolder program, and we highly encourage you to consider its higher payment rates and other incentives.”
In 2021, FSA overhauled CRP to improve climate benefits, with producers enrolling more than 5.3 million acres into the program, surpassing a goal of 4 million acres.
Producers and landowners enrolled 4.6 million acres into CRP signups in 2021, including 2.5 million acres in the largest Grassland CRP signup in history. There are currently 22.1 million acres enrolled, and FSA is aiming to reach the 25.5-million-acre cap statutorily set for fiscal year 2022.
“Producers are always encouraged to come in and take advantage of continuous CRP to enroll the most vulnerable acres on their property to help mitigate soil erosion, improve soil health and improve vegetative cover and wildlife habitat,” Ducheneaux.
Ducheneaux encourages producers to call ahead and set up an appointment and check on staffing levels and the ability for county offices to accept visitors. “Because of the Delta and Omnicron variants, we are taking additional steps to make sure our producers and our staff are protected from the impacts of COVID,” he says.
CRP sign ups
General CRP helps producers and landowners establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland.
Meanwhile, Grassland CRP is a working lands program, helping landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland and pastureland and certain other lands, while maintaining the areas as working grazing lands. Protecting grasslands contributes positively to the economy of many regions, provides biodiversity of plant and animal populations and provides important carbon sequestration benefits to deliver lasting climate outcomes, USDA says.
Alongside these programs, producers and landowners can enroll acres in Continuous CRP under the ongoing sign up, which includes projects available through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement.
Climate benefits of CRP
Ducheneaux says CRP is another way that FSA is “putting producers and landowners at the center of climate-smart solutions that generate revenue and benefit our planet.”
Last year, FSA enacted a Climate-Smart Practice Incentive for CRP General and Continuous signups to better target CRP on addressing climate change. This incentive aims to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. CRP’s climate-smart practices include establishment of trees and permanent grasses, development of wildlife habitat and wetland restoration. The Climate-Smart Practice Incentive is annual, and the amount is based on the benefits of each practice type.
Additionally, in order to better target the program toward climate outcomes, USDA invested $10 million last year in the CRP Monitoring, Assessment and Evaluation program to measure and monitor the soil carbon and climate resilience impacts of conservation practices over the life of new CRP contracts. This will enable the agency to further refine the program and practices to provide producers tools for increased climate resilience.
Landowners and producers interested in CRP should contact their local USDA Service Center to learn more or to apply for the program -- for General CRP before the March 11 deadline, and for Grassland CRP before the May 13 deadline. Service center staff continue to work with agricultural producers via phone, email and other digital tools. Due to the pandemic, some USDA Service Centers are open to limited visitors.