The application deadline for the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is just over a week away. The CRP, signed into law by President Reagan in 1985, aims to protect sensitive lands and improve water quality and wildlife habitat on private lands. The program is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States and relies on voluntary participation by farmers, ranchers and private landowners. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue called the program “a powerful tool to encourage agricultural producers to set aside unproductive, marginal lands that should not be farmed to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife and boost soil health.”

For this year’s signup, USDA says limited priority practices are available for continuous enrollment. They include grassed waterways, filter strips, riparian buffers, wetland restoration and others. FSA will use updated soil rental rates to make annual rental payments and will not offer incentive payments as part of the new signup. USDA will not open a general signup this year, however, a one-year extension will be offered to existing CRP participants with expiring CRP contracts of 14 years or less. In addition, FSA announced that the agency established new ranking criteria for CRP grasslands. To guarantee all CRP grasslands offers are treated equally, applicants who previously applied (prior to the current sign-up period) will be asked to reapply using the new ranking criteria

Eligible farmers, ranchers and private landowners can sign up at their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) through Aug. 17, 2018. In return for enrolling land in CRP, participants receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance. CRP enrollment is currently about 22.7 million acres.

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