Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today encouraged Colorado farmers and ranchers to enroll in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to help protect soil, water, and wildlife habitat. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today USDA will accept 1.7 million acres offered under the 45th CRP general sign-up.
"Colorado farmers and ranchers recognize that protecting our land and water resources benefits their businesses along with our state's $40 billion agriculture industry," said Bennet, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources, said. "This enrollment period offers them an opportunity to preserve sensitive lands and wildlife habitat while still earning rental payments on that acreage."
CRP is a voluntary program that allows eligible landowners to receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible farmland throughout the duration of their 10 to 15 year contracts.
Under CRP, farmers and ranchers plant grasses and trees in fields and along streams or rivers. The plantings prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
Bennet has stressed the importance of conservation programs in the Farm Bill following a series of listening sessions with farmers and ranchers throughout Colorado over the past several years. During the markup of the Farm Bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee, Bennet worked to simplify the conservation title and secured a provision in the bill to provide flexibility that will allow more land owners and producers to use conservation easements to preserve their land's agricultural heritage and open space.