Oct 18, 2023USDA: Conservation areas support climate-smart ag
The USDA has issued more than $1.77 billion this year to agricultural producers and landowners through its Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a critical piece of efforts to support climate-smart agriculture.
Right now, CRP’s more than 667,000 participants received payments from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) for voluntary conservation efforts on more than 23 million acres of private land. Since 2021, CRP has grown by 21% in terms of acres enrolled.
“Through the addition of tools to sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and better quantify these efforts, while also bringing into the fold more tribes and underserved producers, we’ve made the Conservation Reserve Program better for our nation’s natural resources and for our agricultural producers and landowners,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release.
“These producers and landowners voluntarily place their land under contract and, in the spirit of stewardship, agree to establish and maintain prescribed conservation practices for the life of contract,” Vilsack said in the release. “We’re grateful to all CRP participants who are making a tremendous difference by proactively addressing climate change and conserving natural resources now and for future generations.”
The top five states for CRP participant payments are:
- Iowa, $402.51 million
- Illinois, $172.72 million
- Minnesota, $150.77 million
- South Dakota, $129.55 million
- Missouri, $99,85 million
Improvements to CRP
Since 2021, FSA has made improvements to the program, according to the USDA, by:
- Introducing a new climate-smart practice incentive for CRP general and continuous signups designed to reward participants who implement conservation practices that increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Enabling additional soil rental rate adjustments or rate flexibilities, including a possible increase in rates where appropriate.
- Increasing payments for practice incentives from 20% to 50%. This incentive, in addition to cost share payments, for continuous CRP practices is based on establishment cost.
- Increasing payments for water quality practices rates from 10% to 20% for certain water quality benefiting practices available through the CRP continuous sign-up, such as grassed waterways, riparian buffers and filter strips.
- Establishing a Grassland CRP minimum rental rate benefitting more than 1,000 counties with rates currently below the $13 minimum.
Additionally, FSA made significant improvements to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) that reduce barriers by making the program more accessible to a broader cross-section of agricultural producers and new conservation partners. These program improvements include the flexibility for partners to provide matching funds in the form of cash, in-kind contributions, or technical assistance and the ability for FSA to invest in additional, full-time staff devoted to working directly with our CREP partners and program specialists in FSA’s state offices.
Since 2021, FSA has also entered into the first-ever Tribal Nations CREP agreements in partnership with the Cheyenne River, Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes. In 2022, USDA also entered into the Big Sioux River Watershed CREP agreement with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks to assist farmers, ranchers and agricultural landowners to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, enhance wildlife habitat, and create public hunting and fishing access. These CREP agreements reflect priorities and goals of USDA to broaden the scope and reach of its voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs to engage underserved producers.
FSA’s conservation programs had a strong showing in 2023. FSA partnered with producers and landowners to enroll 3.9 million CRP this year — including 927,000 enrolled acres through General CRP, 2.3 million acres enrolled in Grassland CRP and 694,000 acres enrolled in Continuous CRP. These results underscore the continued importance of CRP as a tool to help producers invest in the long-term health, sustainability, and profitability of their land and natural resources.