AMES, Iowa — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will accept
1.7 million acres offered under the 45th Conservation Reserve Program general
signup, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced.
The department received nearly 28,000 offers on more than
1.9 million acres of land, demonstrating CRP’s continuing appeal as one of the
nation’s most successful voluntary programs for soil, water and wildlife
Under Vilsack’s leadership, USDA has enrolled nearly 12
million acres in new CRP contracts since 2009. There are more than 26.9 million
acres currently enrolled on 700,000 contracts.
“For 27 years, lands in CRP have helped to conserve our
nation’s resources and played a part in mitigating climate change,” Vilsack
said. “American farmers and ranchers continue to recognize the importance of
protecting our nation’s most environmentally sensitive land by enrolling in
In addition, over the last four years, USDA has set aside
significant acreage under CRP’s Continuous Enrollment Programs to target habitat
conservation on especially important lands. For example, in March 2012,
President Obama dedicated 1 million acres of CRP to Continuous Enrollment
Programs to conserve wetlands, grasslands and wildlife.
This year, farmers and ranchers already have offered more
than 370,000 acres under Continuous CRP signup, a figure that is impressive
given that the lack of a farm bill extension last fall meant that CRP enrollment
only reopened in May this year. Lack of a comprehensive farm bill this year has
resulted in uncertainty for achieving further enrollment objectives under
CRP is a voluntary program that allows eligible landowners
to receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish
long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible farmland throughout the
duration of their 10- to 15-year contracts.
Under CRP, farmers and ranchers plant grasses and trees in
fields and along streams or rivers. The plantings prevent soil and nutrients
from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute
to poor air and water quality and provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
In 2012, CRP helped to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous
losses from farm fields by 605 million pounds and 121 million pounds,
respectively. CRP has restored more than 2 million acres of wetlands and
associated buffers and reduces soil erosion by more than 300 million tons per
CRP also provides $2 billion annually to landowners —
dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses
and creating jobs.
In addition, CRP sequesters more carbon dioxide than any
other conservation program in the country and also reduces both fuel and
fertilizer use. Yearly, CRP results in carbon sequestration equal to taking
almost 10 million cars off the road.
USDA selected offers for enrollment based on an
Environmental Benefits Index comprised of five environmental factors plus cost.
The five environmental factors are wildlife enhancement, water quality, soil
erosion, enduring benefits and air quality.