Additional 2.8 million acres of US farmland go to the Conservation Reserve Program

The US has accepted 2.8 million acres in offers from agricultural producers and private landowners for enrollment into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in 2021.
calendar icon 25 August 2021
clock icon 3 minute read

This year, almost 1.9 million acres in offers have been accepted through the General CRP Signup, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has accepted over 897,000 acres for enrollment through the Continuous Signup. The Continuous Signup remains open and CRP Grasslands Signup closed last week, so USDA expects to enroll more acres into all of CRP than the 3 million acres that are expiring.

“Despite Congress raising the enrollment target in the 2018 Farm Bill, there have been decreases in enrollment for the past two years. The changes we made this spring have put us on the path to reverse this trend,” FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said. “Even with the improved direction, USDA will still be about 4 million acres below the enrollment target. The CRP benefits for producers, sportsmen, wildlife, conservation and climate are numerous and well documented. We cannot afford to let them to be left on the table.”

The 4 million-acre shortfall in CRP would have had the following impacts:

  • More than 359,000 acres less annual forage under CRP Grasslands;
  • A loss of 1,500,000 acres of quality wildlife and pollinator less habitat for wildlife;
  • 20% fewer apiaries in major production regions meeting critical forage thresholds;
  • A loss of more than 4 million upland game and other grassland birds;
  • About 90 million pounds of nitrogen entering waterways;
  • Over 30 million tons of soil eroded, leading to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers; and
  • Foregone sequestration of more than 3 million metric tonnes of CO2.

Like other USDA conservation programs, CRP is a voluntary program that has a variety of options that can be tailored to the specific conservation issues of a state or region and desires of the landowner. The options run the gamut from working lands such as CRP Grasslands to partnerships with states and private entities to target a specific joint concern such as water quality or quantity.

“We are grateful to the leadership and staff at the USDA, who have worked diligently over the last several months to ensure that the Conservation Reserve Program remains a viable and effective conservation tool,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

“This announcement demonstrates that when the CRP is administered with the needs of landowners in mind, they respond by investing their lands in conservation. This course correction is needed now more than ever, as management decisions in recent years have left program acreage at a 30-year low, with an additional 4 million acres set to expire by October 2022. We look forward to continuing to work with the USDA to improve the trajectory of the CRP and guarantee that the program benefits our natural resources, landowners, and the sporting community for years to come.”

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