WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Department of Agriculture opened signup for the Conservation Reserve Program on Monday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced. The deadline for agricultural producers to sign up for the general program is Feb. 28, while signup for continuous Conservation Reserve Program is ongoing.
Farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program receive a yearly rental payment for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as “covers”) to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands.
“The Conservation Reserve Program is one of our nation’s largest conservation endeavors and a critical tool to help producers better manage their operations while conserving natural resources,” Perdue said. “The program marks its 35-year anniversary in 2020, and we’re hoping to see one of our largest signups in many years.”
The Conservation Reserve Program has 22 million acres enrolled, but the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the cap to 27 million acres. This means farmers and ranchers have a chance to enroll in the program for the first time or continue their participation for another term.
Signed into law in 1985, the Conservation Reserve Program is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the U.S. The program was originally primarily intended to control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. This Farm Bill program has evolved over the years, providing a variety of conservation and economic benefits from coast to coast.
The program has:
• Prevented more than 9 billion tons of soil from eroding, enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks;
• Reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to annually tilled cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively;
• Sequestered an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking 9 million cars off the road;
• Created more than 3 million acres of restored wetlands while protecting more than 175,000 stream miles with riparian forest and grass buffers, enough to go around the world 7 times.
• Benefited bees and other pollinators and increased populations of ducks, pheasants, turkey, bobwhite quail, prairie chickens, grasshopper sparrows and many other birds
By enrolling in the Conservation Reserve Program, producers are improving water quality, reducing soil erosion, and restoring habitat for wildlife. This in turn spurs hunting, fishing, recreation, tourism, and other economic development across rural America.