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312984

USDA raises CRP acreage limit by 4.0 million for 2021

The cap will gradually increase to 27 million acres by 2023. 

The U.S. government is raising the number of acres eligible to be enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and will pay farmers more to set aside that land.

On Wednesday, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the goal is to enroll up to 4 million new acres in CRP by raising rental payment rates and expanding the number of incentivized environmental practices allowed under the program.

CRP is one of the world’s largest voluntary conservation programs with a long track record of preserving topsoil, sequestering carbon, and reducing nitrogen runoff, as well providing healthy habitat for wildlife, according to the USDA’s press release.

The Biden-Harris Administration is working to leverage USDA conservation programs for climate mitigation, including continuing to invest in innovation partnership programs like RCPP and On-Farm Trials as well as strengthening programs like CRP to enhance their impacts, according to the USDA press release.

“Sometimes the best solutions are right in front of you. With CRP, the United States has one of the world’s most successful voluntary conservation programs. We need to invest in CRP and let it do what it does best — preserve topsoil, sequester carbon, and reduce the impacts of climate change,” said Vilsack in the press release. “We also recognize that we can’t do it alone. At the White House Climate Leaders Summit this week, we will engage leaders from all around the world to partner with us on addressing climate change. Here at home, we’re working in partnership with producers and local organizations through USDA programs to bring new voices and communities to the table to help combat climate change.”

In 2021, CRP is capped at 25 million acres, and currently 20.8 million acres are enrolled. Furthermore, the cap will gradually increase to 27 million acres by 2023. 

To help increase producer interest and enrollment, FSA is:

  • Adjusting soil rental rates. This enables additional flexibility for rate adjustments, including a possible increase in rates where appropriate.
  • Increasing payments for Practice Incentives from 20% to 50%. This incentive for continuous CRP practices is based on the cost of establishment and is in addition to cost share payments.
  • Increasing payments for water quality practices. Rates are increasing from 10% to 20% for certain water quality benefiting practices available through the CRP continuous signup, such as grassed waterways, riparian buffers, and filter strips.
  • Establishing a CRP Grassland minimum rental rate. This benefits more than 1,300 counties with rates currently below the minimum.


Additionally, USDA is announcing investments in partnerships to increase climate-smart agriculture, including $330 million in 85 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects and $25 million for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials. 

Secretary Vilsack made the announcement today at the White House National Climate Task Force meeting to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to putting American agriculture and forestry at the center of climate-smart solutions to address climate change.  

CRP is a powerful tool when it comes to climate mitigation, and acres currently enrolled in the program mitigate more than 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), according to USDA statistics.

If USDA reaches its goal of enrolling an additional 4 million acres into the program, it will mitigate an additional 3 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent and prevent 90 million pounds of nitrogen and 33 million tons of sediment from running into our waterways each year, the agency stated in its press release.

“We want to make sure CRP continues to be a valuable and effective conservation resource for our producers for decades to come,” said Vilsack. “USDA will continue to find new and creative ways of putting producers and landowners at the center of climate-smart practices that generate revenue and benefit our planet,” Vilsack stated.

The leaders of the the National Associattion of Conservation Districts (NACD) believe the higher rental rates support more participation in the CRP program.

“Inadequate compensation for landowners has led to low enrollment in the program in the past year. These increased rental rates and incentives are critical to ensuring farmers are appropriately compensated for participating in CRP. With these incentives in place, we hope to see full enrollment in the program,” Michael Crowder, NACD president, stated in a press release.

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