The Agriculture Department announced Tuesday that it accepted about 2 million acres into the Conservation Reserve Program during this year’s general signup, well short of what could be needed to keep CRP from shrinking this year.

About 22.1 million acres are currently enrolled in CRP, including 4 million acres in both continuous and general signup contracts that expire in September. The program is capped at 27 million acres for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The administration views CRP as a key way to use agricultural land to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but soaring commodity prices made the program a tougher sell this year.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged landowners to consider enrolling acres in CRP through the grassland and continuous signups, both of which are currently open.

“Our conservation programs are voluntary, and at the end of the day, producers are making market-based decisions as the program was designed to allow and encourages,” Vilsack said.

“We recognize the Conservation Reserve Program is an important tool in helping mitigate climate change and conserve natural resources, and this announcement is just the first opportunity for producers to take advantage of the program.

Most of the 2 million acres accepted into the program were in expiring contracts. Fewer than 400,000 acres are new to the program, compared to the more than 700,000 new acres offered during the 2021 general signup.

General signup acres make up about 10.2 million acres of the program's current enrollment. The more targeted continuous signup contracts account for 6.8 million acres. Another 3.9 million acres are enrolled through the grasslands signup.

USDA accepted 2.07 million of the 2.29 million acres that were offered by applicants, according to USDA data. More than half of the accepted acreage is in three states, led by Texas with 449,644 acres, Colorado with 384,239 and Kansas with 218,974.  

Any land with an environmental benefits index score of 184 was acceptable in the latest signup. The maximum possible EBI score was 545. The average annual payment rate for the accepted acreage is $51.51 per acre.

In 2021, landowners enrolled 5.3 million acres in CRP, including nearly 2.6 million in the grassland signup, 1.9 million acres through the general signup, and 902,000 acres through the continuous signup.