Biden administration considers changes to CRP to bolster effectiveness

Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Daily Globe

The Conservation Reserve Program signup has been extended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The deadline had been set up to end on Feb. 12; however, according to the USDA, it will continue to accept offers.

The USDA Farm Service Agency administers the program and provides annual rental payments for 10 to 15 years for land devoted to conservation purposes, as well as other types of payments.

Incentives and rental payment rates were reduced, resulting in an enrollment shortfall of over 4 million acres under the previous administration.

Producers will have the opportunity to adjust or resubmit their offers to take advantage of planned improvements to the program before the General CRP signup period ends.

“The Conservation Reserve Program provides a tremendous opportunity to address climate change both by retiring marginal cropland and by restoring grasslands, wetlands and forests,” said Robert Bonnie, Office of the Secretary deputy chief of staff. “CRP has a 35-year track record of success beyond just climate benefits, by providing income to producers, improving water quality, reducing erosion and supporting wildlife habitat and the hunting and fishing opportunities that go along with it.

"By extending this signup period, we’ll have time to evaluate and implement changes to get this neglected program back on track.”

CRP provides both economic and conservation benefits by taking land out of agricultural production as one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. According to the FSA, program successes include:

• Sequestering in soils and plants over 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), or about the same amount that the entire state of Delaware emits annually.

• Preventing more than 2 billion tons of soil from being blown away by wind erosion over the life of currently enrolled acres.

• Reducing phosphorous reaching streams by almost 85 million pounds, nitrogen by nearly 450 million pounds and sediment by over 160 million tons in 2020 alone.

• Creating more than 2.3 million acres of restored wetlands while protecting more than 177,000 stream miles with riparian forest and grass buffers, enough to go around the world seven times.

• Establishing over a half-million acres of dedicated pollinator habitat and nearly 15 million more acres of diverse plantings that provide forage for pollinators.

• Increasing populations of ducks and other game birds, prairie chickens and such grassland songbirds as the Baird’s sparrow. CRP in the Northern Great Plains supports an estimated 8.6% of the grassland bird population.

• Increasing habitat that supports economic opportunities, such as job creation, related to hunting and fishing activities.

The extension will allow for CRP producers to enroll for the first time or to re-enroll lands for existing contracts that expire on Sept. 30, 2021.

For more information, those interested and those on Indian reservations and trust lands, contact your local USDA service center.