USDA to Enroll 500,000 Acres in CRP Grassland Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will accept over .5 million acres for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands enrollment, according to Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Deputy Undersecretary Alexis Taylor. That means more than 500,000 acres of grassland will be used solely for livestock grazing areas, protected from development and conversion to row-crop operations.
All combined, beginning farmers, veterans, and underserved producers across 34 states make up over 70% of those reaping benefits from the voluntary program. About two thirds of the acres are in locations with the highest threat for conversion. Plus, about 60% of the land is in wildlife priority areas and an impressive three fourths of the acres will incorporate a wildlife-focused conservation plan.
The CRP Grasslands program aims to safeguard resource-conserving plants, control soil erosion, improve water quality, and create a wildlife habitat on marginally productive agriculture ground. Participants qualify for yearly payments up to 75% of the grazing value of the land and up to 50% to fund cover, cross-fencing for a rotational grazing plan, or pasture cover improvements to benefit pollinators and wildlife.
“This 15-year commitment on more than .5 million acres demonstrates that voluntary, incentive-based conservation methods benefit producers and help to preserve our natural resources,” said Taylor. “Combining conservation and wildlife benefits, while still supporting livestock production, is a clear example of how agriculture and conservation can go hand in hand.”
For those who still want to apply, the USDA will accept offers for CRP Grasslands until December 16. A new CRP Grasslands practice offers small-scale livestock grazing operations specifically tailored options. The program goal is “to encourage greater diversity geographically and in all types of livestock operations,” according to the USDA. Farmers with 100 or fewer head of grazing dairy cows can enroll up to 200 acres of grasslands per farm.
It is evident that the USDA is dedicated to conservation of the nation’s natural resources on working landscapes through programs like the CRP. During the Obama administration, the USDA invested more than $29 billion in nearly 500,000 farmers, ranchers, and landowners to conserve and protect natural resources spanning 400 million acres.
According to the USDA’s News Release: “Seventy percent of the nation’s land is owned and tended to privately, and America’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners have willingly stepped up to address the growing impacts of a changing climate. With USDA’s support, they work to implement voluntary practices that improve air and water quality, prevent soil erosion, and create and protect wildlife habitat.”
If you run a small livestock operation or other farming and ranching operation and are interested in participating in CRP Grasslands, contact your local FSA office. To find your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov. To learn more about FSA’s conservation programs, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.