While appearing to wreak havoc on USDA's ability to provide a number of services, the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration coming in March won't prevent USDA from holding a new enrollment period for the Conservation Reserve Program.
At the annual Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic over the weekend in Minnesota, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA will have a new enrollment period for CRP from May 20 until June 14. The pheasant and quail hunting show has become a traditional spot for Vilsack to announce a new CRP enrollment.
“Since the 1980s, the CRP program has established itself as a benchmark in voluntary conservation efforts, providing American producers with assets to address our most critical resource issues,” Vilsack said in a news release. “Last year, during one of the worst droughts in generations, the CRP proved vital in protecting our most environmentally sensitive lands from erosion. Emergency haying and grazing on CRP lands also supplied critical feed and forage for livestock producers due to the drought. And the program continues to bring substantial returns to rural areas, attracting recreation and tourism dollars into local economies while sustaining natural and wildlife habitat for future generations.”
Contracts on about 3.3 million acres will expire this fall. CRP now has 27 million acres, one of its lowest acreage levels since the program began after the 1985 farm bill.
Vilsack added that additional sign-ups for continuous CRP programs will be announced later this spring for programs such as the Highly Erodible Land Initiative and Initiative to Restore Grasslands, Wetlands and Wildlife.
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USDA noted producers with expiring contracts or producers with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate their options under CRP.
As USDA stated, landowners who are accepted in the sign-up can receive cost-share assistance to plant long-term, resource-conserving covers and receive an annual rental payment for the length of the contract (10-15 years). Producers also are encouraged to look into CRP’s other enrollment opportunities offered on a continuous, non-competitive, sign-up basis and that often provide additional financial assistance. Continuous sign-up dates will be announced at a later date.
Highlights of CRP include:
CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and two million acres of riparian buffers;
Each year, CRP keeps more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorous from flowing into our nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes.
CRP provides $1.8 billion annually to landowners—dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs; and
CRP is the largest private lands carbon sequestration program in the country. By placing vulnerable cropland into conservation, CRP sequesters carbon in plants and soil, and reduces both fuel and fertilizer usage. In 2012, CRP resulted in carbon sequestration equal to taking about nine million cars off the road.
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