WASHINGTON, May 29, 2015 – USDA announced today the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will be allowed to grow by 800,000 acres to include sensitive wetlands that help improve water quality and provide wildlife habitat. 

“CRP protects water quality and restores significant habitat for ducks, pheasants, turkey, quail, deer and other important wildlife. That spurs economic development like hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation and tourism all over rural America,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during his speech at the Ducks Unlimited National Convention in Milwaukee. “Today we're allowing an additional 800,000 acres for duck nesting habitat and other wetland and wildlife habitat initiatives to be enrolled in the program.”

CRP is a voluntary farm bill program that connects participating farmers and ranchers with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to conserve environmentally significant, privately owned lands. Participants are contractually required (for 10 to 15 years) to establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat. In return, FSA provides them with rental payments and cost-share assistance.

The agency will hold a general sign-up for new CRP participants from Dec. 1 through Feb. 26, 2016. Existing enrollees whose contracts expire Sept. 30 may choose to extend their enrollment for an additional year. Farmers and ranchers may visit their FSA county office for additional information.

"I encourage all farmers and ranchers to consider the various CRP continuous sign-up initiatives that may help target specific resource concerns," Vilsack said in a statement. "Financial assistance is offered for many practices including conservation buffers and pollinator habitat plantings, and initiatives such as the highly erodible lands, bottomland hardwood tree and longleaf pine, all of which are extremely important."

The program has a long list of private and public partners including: Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Association of State Foresters, National Wild Turkey Federation, Audubon Society, National Bobwhite Technical Committee, Quality Deer Management Association, National Rural Water Association, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Longleaf Alliance, state soil and water conservation districts, and state forestry, agriculture and natural resource agencies.

The 2014 farm bill also authorized the enrollment of grasslands in CRP and information on grasslands enrollment will be available after the regulation is published later this summer, USDA said.


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