USDA enrolls 800,000 acres for CRP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced May 5 the enrollment of more than 800,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program.

Through CRP, the USDA helps farmers offset the costs of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and strengthen wildlife habitat.

The participation of farmers and ranchers in CRP continues to provide numerous benefits, including reducing emissions of harmful greenhouse gases and providing resiliency to future weather changes.

“The Conservation Reserve Program provides nearly $2 billion annually to landowners—dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs,” said Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary.

“When these direct benefits are taken together with the resulting economic activity, the benefits related to CRP are estimated at $3.1 billion annually.”

Vilsack said over the past 30 years, CRP has created major environmental improvements, such as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere equal to removing 9 million cars from the road annually, and preventing 600 million dump trucks of soil from eroding.

The USDA called the current sign-up periods “one of the most selective” in CRP’s history, with a record high Environmental Benefits Index cut-off and the lowest-percentage of applications accepted.

A nationwide acreage limit was established for this program in the 2014 Farm Bill, capping the total number of acres at 24 million for fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

At the same time, USDA has experienced a record demand from farmers and ranchers interested in participating in the voluntary program. As of March 2016, 23.8 million acres were enrolled in CRP, with 1.7 million acres set to expire this fall.

Over 3 million acres have been offered for enrollment this year across the three main categories within CRP: with USDA’s Farm Service Agency receiving more than 26,000 offers to enroll more than 1.8 million acres, and more than 4,600 offers to enroll more than 1 million acres in the new CRP Grasslands program.

After a record-setting continuous enrollment in 2015 of 860,000 acres, more than 364,000 acres already have been accepted for 2016 in the CRP continuous enrollment, triple the pace of last year.

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