The United States Department of Agriculture just announcing its 45th general sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program or CRP. The sign up will be conducted over a four week period beginning May 20 through June 14.
Currently, about 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP, which is a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them safeguard environmentally sensitive land. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. Contracts on 3.3 million acres of CRP are set to expire on Sept. 30 of this year. Producers with expiring contracts or producers with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate their options under CRP.
CRP provides American producers with assets to address our most critical resource issues. Just last year during one of the worst droughts in generations, the CRP proved vital in protecting our most environmentally sensitive lands from erosion. Emergency haying and grazing on CRP lands also supplied critical feed and forage for livestock producers due to the drought.
Producers that are accepted in the sign up can receive cost-share assistance to plant cover acres and receive an annual rental payment for the length of the contract, which is either 10 or 15 years.
Over the past 27 years, farmers, ranchers, conservationists, hunters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts have made CRP one of the largest and most important USDA efforts. CRP continues to make major contributions to national efforts to improve water and air quality, and to prevent soil erosion by protecting the most sensitive areas including those prone to flash flooding and runoff. CRP has also helped increase populations of pheasants, quail, ducks, and rare species, like the sage grouse, the lesser prairie chicken, and other grassland birds.
CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and two million acres of riparian buffers; each year, CRP keeps more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorous from flowing into our nation's streams, rivers, and lakes. CRP provides $1.8 billion annually to landowners - dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs; and CRP is the largest private lands carbon sequestration program in the country.
USDA continues to enroll a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and prevent soil erosion. Since 2009, USDA has enrolled more than 50 million acres into the conservation stewardship program to incentivize the most productive, beneficial conservation practices.
Additional sign ups for continuous CRP programs such as highly erodible land initiative and initiative to restore grasslands, wetlands and wildlife-will be announced in spring 2013. To learn more about your land eligibility for the USDA's Conservation Reserve Program, contact your local Farm Service Agency.