USDA Delivers Welcome News with Expansion and Improvements to Conservation Reserve Program

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St. Paul, Minn. – April 21, 2021

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the open enrollment of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with higher payment rates, new incentives, and a more targeted focus on the program’s role in climate resiliency. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are acknowledging the exceptional work of USDA Secretary Vilsack and agency officials to fast-track these critical improvements for the nation’s premier private lands conservation program.

“Today’s CRP announcement by Secretary Vilsack delivered upon every requested improvement we’ve made since he returned to USDA leadership. At the top of that list was the need for adjusted soil rental rates to make CRP an attractive option for farmers and ranchers once again. That had to be the starting point, and it’s clear our voice was heard. We’re also encouraged to see the grassland habitat created by CRP acknowledged as a massive component of the recipe for climate resiliency,” reported Jim Inglis, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s director of governmental affairs.

USDA’s goal is to enroll up to 4 million new acres in CRP by raising rental payment rates and expanding the number of incentivized environmental practices allowed under the program. CRP is one of the world’s largest voluntary conservation programs with a long track record of preserving topsoil, sequestering carbon, and reducing nitrogen runoff, as well providing healthy habitat for wildlife. In 2021, CRP is capped at 25 million acres, and currently 20.8 million acres are enrolled. Furthermore, the cap will gradually increase to 27 million acres by 2023. Here are several of the changes to help increase producer interest and enrollment:

  • Adjusting soil rental rates: This enables additional flexibility for rate adjustments, including a possible increase in rates where appropriate.
  • Increasing payments for Practice Incentives from 20% to 50%: This incentive for continuous CRP practices is based on the cost of establishment and is in addition to cost share payments.
  • Increasing payments for water quality practices: Rates are increasing from 10% to 20% for certain water quality benefiting practices available through the CRP continuous signup, such as grassed waterways, riparian buffers, and filter strips.
  • Establishing a CRP Grassland minimum rental rate: This benefits more than 1,300 counties with rates currently below the minimum.
  • Moving State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practices to the CRP continuous signup. Unlike the general signup, producers can sign up year-round for the continuous signup and be eligible for additional incentives.

“We’re also thrilled to see the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement [SAFE] practice returned to continuous CRP where it is open year-round. SAFE has a tremendous record of success for pheasants, quail, and grassland wildlife,” added Jim Inglis. “Likewise, we’re excited for the expansion of South Dakota Senator John Thune’s Soil Health and Income Protection Program [SHIPP] and the clear focus being placed on CRP’s multiple benefits in the form of wildlife habitat, healthy soils, water quality, carbon sequestration, outdoor recreation, and a diversified agricultural economy. Secretary Vilsack’s overall message today is clear – The USDA is once again open for the business of conservation.”

Farmers and landowners interested in program enrollment with new rates and incentives should contact Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Conservation Operations Team for assistance by following this link: pheasantsforever.org/findaBiologist.