March 30, 2020

Conservation Reserve Program: Over 3.4 Million Acres Accepted Following 19-20 General Sign-up

On March 26, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the acceptance rates for the Conservation Reserve Program’s (CRP) 2019-2020 general sign-up enrollment period. 

During the enrollment period, landowners had a voluntary opportunity to submit competitive offers to USDA’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) for consideration. Each application was then ranked based on an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) score. Throughout the United States, this resulted in an 89% acceptance rate by FSA and 3.4 million acres in new CRP enrollments accepted into the program.

CRP is a voluntary private lands conservation program that was first included in the 1985 Farm Bill. Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest and most successful private lands conservation programs in the country. In exchange for annual rental payments, farmers agree to remove land from crop production for the duration of the CRP contract (usually 10-15 years), instead installing conservation practices designed to benefit soil health, water quality, and/or wildlife habitat. The 2018 Farm Bill included an increase in the nationwide CRP acreage cap. In 2020, this cap is set at 24.5 million and will increase incrementally throughout the five-year term of the bill, establishing a new cap of 27 million acres by 2023.

Included in this general sign-up was the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program. This program allows landowners to receive annual rental payments in exchange for incorporating conservation practices designed to benefit locally important wildlife conservation objectives. Of note for sportsmen and women, SAFE practices include local initiatives designed to benefit game species like pheasant, quail, sage grouse, and others. With a 95% acceptance rate for SAFE offers, 487,000 acres of future wildlife habitat enhancement was accepted into the program.

During the 2018 Farm Bill negotiations, CSF played a leading role in coordinating with Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members to ensure a robust conservation title. Specifically, CSF urged CSC members to increase the CRP acreage cap to a level that recognizes the value of this program, which resulted in a cap increase to 27 million acres. This increase demonstrates Congress’ understanding and recognition of the critical role CRP plays in private lands conservation.

Though the general sign-up has passed, landowners interested in incorporating CRP projects on their lands may still sign-up for continuous CRP projects and CRP Grasslands, both of which are open now for enrollment. For more information on the general CRP acceptance rate, including state-specific information, visit the FSA’s updated website here.

CSF has and will continue to work with legislators, agency officials, and our conservation partners to promote CRP and other important Farm Bill conservation programs for the benefit of our natural resources and the sportsmen and women who enjoy them.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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