USDA recently announced it accepted more than 2 million acres in offers from agricultural producers and landowners through the General Conservation Reserve Program sign-up, including nearly 31,000 acres in Minnesota.
This is the first of the program’s multiple sign-ups occurring in 2022.
About 3.4 million acres are expiring this year. Tom Vilsack, the USDA ag secretary, encourages producers and landowners to consider the Grassland and Continuous sign-ups, both of which are currently open. Conservation programs are voluntary.
Whitney Place, Farm Service Agency state executive director in Minnesota, says CRP is an important tool to help mitigate climate change and conserve natural resources.
“This announcement is just the first opportunity for producers to take advantage of the program,” Place says. Producers also can check out options under the working lands Grassland Conservation Reserve Program, the more targeted buffer-type practices under Continuous CRP, and partnership opportunities through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
“For farmers who have decided to return all or a portion of their land into production agriculture, USDA will also be reaching out to ensure they understand and can take advantage of options to either prepare the land for production, or transition it to beginning farmers,” Place says.
Producers nationwide submitted re-enrollment offers for just over half of expiring acres, similar to the rate in 2021. Offers for new land under General CRP were considerably lower compared to last year’s numbers, with fewer than 400,000 acres being offered this year versus more than 700,000 acres offered last year.
Submitting and accepting a CRP offer is the start of the process for landowners. They still need to develop a conservation plan before enrolling their land on Oct. 1. Each year, during the window between offer acceptance and land enrollment, some producers change their mind and ultimately decide not to enroll some accepted acres without penalty.
The three other types of CRP — Grasslands, Continuous, and CREP — are still available for either working lands, or targeted, often smaller subfield, offers. Producers have submitted offers on nearly 260,000 acres through the Continuous and CREP sign-up so far this year. The Grassland sign-up — which last year had its highest participation ever — closes today.
General CRP sign-up
The General CRP Sign-up 58 ran from Jan. 31 to March 11.
Through CRP, producers and landowners establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve soil health and water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on agricultural land. In addition to the other well-documented benefits, lands enrolled in CRP are playing a key role in climate change mitigation efforts across the country.
In 2021, FSA introduced improvements to the program, which included a new Climate-Smart Practice Incentive to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This incentive provides a 3%, 5% or 10% incentive payment based on the predominant vegetation type for the practices enrolled — from grasses to trees to wetland restoration.
For more information, contact your local USDA Service Center.