USDA accepts 2 million acres in offers through CRP General sign-up
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting more than 2 million acres in offers from agricultural producers and landowners through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General sign-up, the first of the program’s multiple sign-ups occurring in 2022.
With about 3.4 million acres expiring this year, Vilsack encourages producers and landowners to consider the Grassland and Continuous sign-ups, both of which are currently open.
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“Our conservation programs are voluntary, and at the end of the day, producers are making market-based decisions as the program was designed to allow and encourages,” Vilsack says. “We recognize the Conservation Reserve Program is an important tool in helping mitigate climate change and conserve natural resources, and this announcement is just the first opportunity for producers to take advantage of the program. Producers are still looking at options under the working-lands Grassland Conservation Reserve Program, the more targeted buffer-type practices under Continuous CRP, and partnership opportunities through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)."
"For farmers who have decided to return all or a portion of their land into production agriculture, USDA will also be reaching out to ensure they understand and can take advantage of options to either prepare the land for production or transition it to beginning farmers," Vilsack says.
Producers submitted re-enrollment offers for just over half of expiring acres, similar to the rate in 2021. Offers for new land under General CRP were considerably lower compared to last year’s numbers, with fewer than 400,000 acres being offered this year vs. more than 700,000 acres offered last year.
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CRP is a critical tool in USDA’s conservation program efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, bolster soil health, prevent erosion, restore wildlife habitats, and improve air and water quality. In the past, the National Association of Conservation Distrcits (NACD) has applauded USDA’s efforts to encourage participation in CRP by increasing payment rates and introducing a variety of incentive payments, including a climate incentive payment.
“NACD is pleased more than 2 million acres have been accepted through CRP and looks forward to USDA continuing its excellent stewardship of this program,” said NACD chief executive officer Jeremy Peters. “CRP plays a key component to conservation, and we are excited to see enrollment options become available to as many eligible producers as possible, particularly those who manage vulnerable lands.”
It is important to note that submitting and accepting a CRP offer is the start of the process, and producers still need to develop a conversation plan before enrolling their land on October 1, 2022. Each year, during the window between offer acceptance and land enrollment, some producers change their mind and ultimately decide not to enroll some accepted acres without penalty.
The three other types of CRP — Grasslands, Continuous, and CREP — are still available for either working-lands or targeted, often smaller sub-field, offers. Producers have submitted offers on nearly 260,000 acres through the Continuous and CREP sign-up so far this year. The Grassland sign-up – which last year had its highest participation ever – closes May 13, 2022.
General CRP Sign-up
The General CRP Sign-up 58 ran from January 31 to March 11, 2022.
Through CRP, producers and landowners establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve soil health and water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on agricultural land. In addition to the other well-documented benefits, lands enrolled in CRP are playing a key role in climate change mitigation efforts across the country.
In 2021, FSA introduced improvements to the program, which included a new Climate-Smart Practice Incentive to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This incentive provides a 3%, 5%, or 10% incentive payment based on the predominant vegetation type for the practices enrolled – from grasses to trees to wetland restoration.
While the General Sign-up is closed, producers and landowners can still apply for the Continuous and Grassland sign-ups by contacting their local USDA Service Center.