Joel Foster, executive director of the Grant County Farm Service Agency (FSA), reminds agricultural producers and private landowners that the deadline for applying for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General signup is April 7. There are currently 23 million acres enrolled in CRP, with 1.9 million set to expire this year. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is aiming to reach the 27-million-acre cap statutorily set for fiscal year 2023.
Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest voluntary private-lands conservation programs in the United States. It was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production.
FSA also offers several additional enrollment opportunities within Continuous CRP, including the Clean Lakes Estuaries and Rivers Initiative (CLEAR30), the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Initiative, the Farmable Wetlands Program (FWP), and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The CLEAR30 Initiative allows producers and landowners to enroll in 30-year CRP contracts for water quality practices. Under this administration, FSA moved SAFE practices back to the Continuous CRP signup, giving producers and landowners more opportunities to participate in the initiative.
This administration has also made significant changes to CREP, which leverages federal and non-federal funds to target specific state, regional or nationally significant conservation concerns. Specifically, USDA made changes to CREP to reduce barriers and make the program more accessible to a broad range of producers and new types of partners. The western portions of Grant County are included in the Big Sioux River Watershed CREP.
The updates included flexibility for partners to provide matching funds in the form of cash, in-kind contributions, or technical assistance, along with an investment in additional staff to work directly with partners. Through CREP, for the first time ever, three tribal nations are now partnering with USDA to help conserve, maintain, and improve grassland productivity, reduce soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat.
FSA will announce the dates for Grassland CRP signup in the coming weeks. Grassland CRP is a working lands program, helping landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland and pastureland and certain other lands, while maintaining the areas as working grazing lands.
Landowners and producers interested in CRP should contact the Grant County FSA office at 605.432.6570, ext. 2 or visit www.fsa.usda.gov to learn more or to apply for the program.
Producers with expiring CRP acres can use the Transition Incentives Program (TIP), which incentivizes producers who sell or enter a long-term lease with a beginning, veteran, or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher who plans to sustainably farm or ranch the land.