The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced the acceptance of more than 1.2 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands during the recent signup period that began March 16 and ended May 15. The this signup period offered 1.9 million acres, more than three times the number offered during the last signup period in 2016.
Through CRP Grasslands, farmers and ranchers can protect grasslands, rangelands and pastures while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices, such as haying, mowing or harvesting seed from the enrolled land. The timing of some activities may be restricted by the primary nesting season of birds.
“This large and unprecedented enrollment is a reflection of the popularity and importance of CRP Grasslands,” FSA administrator Richard Fordyce said. “The program emphasizes support for grazing operations and plant and animal biodiversity while protecting land under the greatest threat of conversion or development.”
Participants will receive an annual rental payment and may receive up to 50% cost share for establishing approved conservation practices. The duration of the CRP contract is 10 or 15 years. FSA ranked offers using a number of factors, including existence of expiring CRP land, threat of conversion or development, existing grassland and predominance of native species cover and cost.
The 2018 farm bill set aside no fewer than 2 million acres for CRP Grassland enrollment. On Oct. 1, 2020, grassland enrollment is expected to be 2.1 million acres. CRP is one of the largest conservation programs at USDA. CRP marks its 35-year anniversary in 2020, with 21.9 million acres enrolled.