Signup trends for the general enrollment in USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program over the last few years are showing higher acceptance rates, but some fear that’s due to the department lowering the environmental benefits index score, which determines eligibility requirements for the program.
Over 2.5 million out of 3.9 million acres submitted have been accepted by USDA in this year’s Grassland Conservation Reserve Program enrollment, with additional priority zones for elk migratory paths and the Dust Bowl region.
The Agriculture Department is accepting 2.8 million acres into the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program, well under the 4 million acres the Biden administration was aiming for as part of its effort to use farmers to help reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
USDA announced plans Tuesday to provide additional coronavirus relief to farmers, biofuel producers and food companies and to expand the Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers conservation initiative, known as CLEAR30, to the entire country.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack denied Thursday that President Joe Biden’s goal of conserving 30% of the nation’s land by 2030 is a “land grab” but is instead intended to protect “private, working lands" through voluntary programs.
Democrats are preparing to pour money into federal conservation programs as a key way to pay farmers to address climate change. Converting marginal croplands to grass through the Conservation Reserve Program is one way to do it, but the question is whether USDA can get landowners interested in it again.
Providing some parting advice on climate policy, House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson said he was introducing legislation that would require the Agriculture Department to take 50 million acres of cropland out of production through the Conservation Reserve Program.
Producers can begin signing up for the Conservation Reserve Program Jan. 4 and CRP Grasslands March 15, USDA has announced. The CRP signup will run through Feb. 12, while the grasslands signup will go through April 23.