Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today reminded landowners and producers that a general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will begin on March 14, 2011, and continue through April 15, 2011. During the sign-up period, farmers and ranchers may offer eligible land at their county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized USDA to maintain CRP enrollment up to 32 million acres. The Secretary announced the sign-up recently in Omaha, Neb., at Pheasant Fest.
"For 25 years, CRP has generated significant environmental improvements," said Vilsack. "Sound conservation practices encouraged through CRP enrollment preserve the soil, clean our water and restore habitat for wildlife. I encourage all interested farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA office to learn more about this opportunity."
CRP is a voluntary program that assists farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers to use their environmentally-sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolling in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers in exchange for rental payments, cost-share and technical assistance. By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP also protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to wildlife population increases in many parts of the country.
Land may be enrolled in CRP provided all eligibility requirements are met. Additionally, current CRP participants with contracts expiring this fall covering about 4.4 million acres may make new contract offers. Contracts awarded under this sign-up are scheduled to become effective Oct. 1, 2011.
FSA will evaluate and rank eligible CRP offers using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) for environmental benefits to be gained from enrolling the land in CRP. The EBI consists of five environmental factors (wildlife, water, soil, air and enduring benefits) and cost. Decisions on the EBI cutoff will be made after the sign-up ends April 15 and after analyzing the EBI data of all the offers.
In addition to general sign-up, CRP's continuous sign-up program will be ongoing. Continuous acres represent the most environmentally desirable and sensitive land. For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/crp.