Grassland CRP signup doubles last year’s enrollment

Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Daily Globe

Enrollment numbers are up for the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA said on Friday that more than 2.5 million acres from agricultural producers and private landowners have been accepted into the program, doubling the signup totals from a year ago.

The new signup data shows there has been more than 5.3 million acres

enrolled in 2021, passing its goal of 4 million acres.

“This increased interest in working lands conservation serves two purposes,” said USDA’s Farm Service Agency administrator Zach Ducheneaux. “It helps close the gap between enrollment and available acres, and it leaves room for the administration to be innovative with the other conservation tools, such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, at our disposal as we work to enlist non-traditional partners in our conservation efforts.”

Producers and landowners can conserve grasslands, rangelands and pastures, while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices, such as haying, mowing or harvesting seed from the enrolled land through Grassland CRP pursuant to approved conservation plans designed to promote thoughtful use while creating and maintaining vital habitat.

“Grasslands sequester an incredible amount of carbon in their roots that is resilient even during drought and wildfire, while also providing good wildlife habitat and grazing opportunities for producers and landowners; because there is no better way to increase soil health than with thoughtful animal impact," said Ducheneaux. "This year, we rolled out improvements to Grassland CRP, including priority zones for elk migration and vulnerable soils, and we were pleased to see this level of interest from conservation-minded producers across the country. This is a powerful program, and we want to continue to grow interest in Grassland CRP as well as other CRP signups in the coming years.”

Several updates were made by the FSA to the CRP signup early in 2021 which included a minimum payment rate and established new national priority zones for Grassland CRP.

According to the FSA, in the two priority zones 1.1 million acres had been enrolled by producers which included the Historical Dust Bowl Region, which it says is still at a great risk of high wind erosion for counties in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.

The other priority zone is that of the Greater Yellowstone Elk Migratory Corridor, which focuses on wildlife in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming counties.

To address climate change, the enrollment of more than 2.5 million acres of grazing land into Grassland CRP, will mitigate an additional estimated 22,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent, according to the FSA.

Looking ahead to 2022 and 2023, a nationwide acreage limit for CRP was capped at 25 million acres in the 2021 fiscal year as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. By the 2023 fiscal year, the cap will go up to 27 million.

At this time there is 20.6 million acres enrolled for 2021 and with the addition of the recent 5.3 million acres, puts the 2022 enrollment at 22.9 million acres, which is projected to reach 25.5 million acres for the 2022 fiscal year.

For more information on Grassland CRP or any other CRP program, contact your local FSA county office or visit fsa.usda.gov/crp.

To locate your local FSA office, visit farmers.gov/service-locator.

Additionally, download the “What’s New” fact sheet to learn more about CRP updates.

To contact the writer email vmarshall@gannett.com