Habitat & Conservation  |  12/21/2020

The Status of CRP and enrollment opportunities for 2021


What's on the horizon for CRP in 2021 and beyond

CRP General Sign up Announced
USDA recently announced the annual Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign up that will begin on Jan 4, 2021.This sign up, along with the ongoing Continuous CRP enrollments, and Grassland CRP signup slated for March, would allow for up to 7 million(M) acres of new contract enrollment. The 7M acres is a combination of being under the current enrollment cap, coupled with the 3M acres that will expire October 1, 2021. Any landowner that has an expiring CRP contract this year should be thinking about re-enrolling early in order to consider options. There is also plenty of room for new enrollments, so be sure to look at new opportunities throughout 2021 and beyond. You can find more information from your nearest Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Biologist or visit your county USDA service center

Concerns about low acres currently enrolled in CRP
There are certainly numerous opportunities to install these voluntary conservation practices in the next year; however, we still face challenges meeting the acreage targets that Congress set in the 2018 Farm Bill. USDA’s November report documented that there are 20.7M acres enrolled, the lowest enrollment since 1987. As we have been reporting since last summer, we anticipated a net loss of acres again this year, which has happened every year for the last 12 years. It is easy to correlate the continued decline in acres with regional declines in upland bird populations as well as fewer huntable areas in the autumn. We attributed the recent decline in program acres to USDA’s administrative decisions and changes to the CRP program, especially over the last 18 months which were not consistent with Congressional intent. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, along with other conservation partners, have continually called on USDA to reverse those changes, which will now be up to the next Administration. Again, we need to stress there are plenty of opportunities to enroll acres and we encourage landowners to look at wide array of conservation options. We will be working with the next Administration and Congress on ways to reach the 27M acre cap by 2023, the same year that CRP and the Farm Bill will be reauthorized. 

50M acres of CRP?!?!
In a surprise move in early December, House Agricultue Committee Chair Collin Peterson introduced a “marker” Bill that would expand CRP to 50M acres. Chairman Peterson is leaving Congress after a long career where he served on the House Agriculture Committee and was a long-time champion of the CRP program. When asked what the point was of introducing a Bill like this at the end of the 116th Congress and his Congressional career, his response was “The point was to make a point” and “To take a parting shot as he is going out the door.” During the press conference, he also mentioned how CRP has a 30-year track record of addressing conservation concerns. He emphissised that it’s good for wildlife, soil, water and should be part of the discussion and a tool for addressing climate resiliency because of  its’ significant ability to sequester carbon. The news release can be found HERE. Also, during the press conference PF/QF Howard Vincent offered some remarks, thanking the chairman for his decades of support for CRP and wildlife. The audio interview can be found HERE

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