The federal government's Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, is marking its 35th anniversary with a 3.4-million-acre shot in the arm.
American landowners enrolled more than 3.4 million acres in the program in the recently completed CRP general signup, the first since 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, or FSA, announced March 26.
FSA will begin notifying landowners whose offers were accepted by no latter than April 3
Nationwide, landowners offered a total of 3.8 million acres during the general signup, producing an 89 percent acceptance rate. Fordyce said landowners did a good job of offering land that fit criteria for acceptance.
State totals (all numbers rounded) include:
North Dakota — 140,000 acres offered, 126,000 acres accepted.
South Dakota — 91,000 acres offered, 72,000 acres accepted.
Montana — 161,000 acres offered, 134,000 acres accepted.
Minnesota — 115,000 acres offered, 105,000 acres accepted.
Iowa — 274,000 acre offered, 267,000 acres accepted.
Currently, CRP has about 22 million acres enrolled nationwide. But the 2018 farm bill, the centerpiece of U.S. food and ag policy, allows up to 24.5 million acres to be enrolled in 2020 and up to 27 million by 2023. That would reverse a long decline in enrolled acreage that began in 2008; over the past 12 years, nearly 13 million acres had left the program, reflecting the 2008-2012 boom in farm profitability and new farming practices that increased the appeal of cropping once-marginal farmland.
Even with the additional 3.4 million acres, CRP has not reached its 24.5-million-acre 2020 cap, Fordyce said. That's because some land in expiring CRP contracts will not be renewed, reducing the 22 million acres currently enrolled. In addition, FSA is saving a portion of the new 24.5-million-acre 2020 cap for conservation programs other than general signup.
CRP gives participating landowners an annual rental payment to remove land from active production and plant a special mix of grass or trees, or both, to protect the environment or promote wildlife. Typically, contacts are for 10 to 15 years.
The deadline for general CRP signup was Feb. 29, 2020, but landowners still have the opportunity to apply for other types of federal conservation programs.
Signup for continuous CRP, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Progam, CRP Grasslands and the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) continue. The CRP Grassland application deadline is May 15. The SHIPP deadline begins March 30 and ends Aug. 21.
Continuous and Grasslands CRP are available nationwide. All counties in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Iowa are eligible for SHIPP.
Finally, a new pilot conservation program, the Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers 30 (CLEAR 30) is being launched this spring. It allows expiring CRP contracts with CLEAR practices to be re-enrolled in 30-year contacts.
For more information, contact your local FSA office to make a telephone appointment to discuss a conservation program or programs.
The variety of federal conservation programs can be confusing to some landowners. Fordyce, asked about that, said he remembers when CRP began in 1985 and that's he pleased the program has evolved to better promote conservation.