More than half a million Americans will receive payments for lands enrolled in the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The USDA will issue nearly $1.7 billion through the program to protect almost 24 million acres of wetlands, grasslands and wildlife habitat for 2016.
“We have seen record demand to participate in this important program,” said Vilsack. “Despite the current enrollment limit of 24 million acres, USDA is committed to continuing our important partnerships with farmers, ranchers, state and local governments and sportsmen to maintain the environmental benefits provided by the Conservation Reserve Program.”
More than 1.3 million acres were newly enrolled in CRP in fiscal year 2016 using the continuous enrollment authority, triple the pace of the previous year. In fiscal year 2016, FSA also accepted 411,000 acres through its general enrollment authority, plus 101,000 acres in the new CRP-Grasslands program, which balances conservation with working lands. More than 70 percent of the acres enrolled in CRP-Grasslands are diverse native grasslands under threat of conversion, with more than 97 percent of the acres having a new, veteran or underserved farmer or rancher as a primary producer.
During its 30-year history, CRP has reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff by 95 and 85 percent, respectively, and restored 2.7 million acres of wetlands. It has also protected more than 170,000 stream miles with riparian buffers, enough to go around the world seven times. The program provides 15 million acres that are beneficial to pollinators, and hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat that has resurrected waterfowl and gamebird populations, like pheasants, quail and prairie chicken.
The CRP program is credited with removing 49 million tons of greenhouse gasses and preventing nine billion tons of soil erosion.