The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is celebrating 30 years of improving the quality of America’s farmland. It was late December of 1985 when President Ronald Reagan signed the 1985 Farm Bill into law and, with it, the CRP program. The principal architect of the program was Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. In the summer of 1985, then Secretary of Agriculture John Block flew from Washington to Senator Lugar’s farm in Marion County, IN, to announce details of the program.
While the program has undergone many changes over the years, Lugar feels it is still relevant and necessary today, “I believe the CRP has brought many more acres of farmland into production by improving the land to the point where it can support row crop agriculture. In addition, the CRP program has produced wildlife habitat and has encouraged practices that screen out fertilizers and pesticides from the water supply.” During a media conference call, Lugar said that, when he developed the concept, he never conceived the long-lasting impact and environmental benefits the program would have.
Indiana FSA Director Julia Wickard says the program remains very popular in Indiana, “Indiana currently has 220,400 acres enrolled in the CRP program.” She said there are 23.1 million acres enrolled in the program nationally. Originally there were 39 million acres enrolled nationwide in CRP. In 2008, Congress cut the acreage cap to 32 million areas and, again in 2014, the cap was reduced to 24 million acres. The CRP program has served as the foundation for conservation programs in all Farm Bills since 1985. Over the past 30 years, other conservation programs have been added such as CREP and EQUIP. In addition, environmentally sensitive land was added as a criteria to the original designation of highly erodible land.
State Conservationist Jane Hardesty said this variety of program options has allowed farmers implement many different conservation options on their farms, “It is amazing the passion that Indiana landowners have about their conservation efforts that include filter strips, grass waterways, and tree planting.”
The CRP program continues today with general CRP signup Number49 currently underway. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a land conservation program administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. Contracts for land enrolled in CRP are 10-15 years in length. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.