Sign up for one of the oldest and most successful conservation programs began on Monday. Julie Wickard, Director of the Indiana FSA office, said “CRP has a 27-year legacy of successfully protecting the nation’s natural resources, while also providing significant economic and environmental benefits to rural communities across America,” Wickard told HAT, in addition to regular CRP sign up, the continuous CRP program was reauthorized by USDA last week and will continue until September 30. While planting is a priority, Wickard hopes growers will be thinking about CRP while they are putting in this year’s crop. She said there may some parts of your operation that may not be the best to use for row crops and, on these acres CRP might be the answer, “There may be land that is hard to get a planter into or even harvest. This could be land that would be better used for wildlife habitat.”
There are currently 263,776 acres are enrolled in CRP in Indiana, with 37,010 active contracts. A total of 47,539 acres are scheduled to expire September 30. In the General CRP Signups, eligible landowners submit an offer to retire land for a period of 10-15 years and establish a conservation cover such as trees or grasses on the land. These offers compete nationwide against other offers. Those offers which result in the most environmental benefits for the cost are accepted by USDA for enrollment. Applicants can enhance the possibility of having an offer accepted by taking actions such as offering the most environmentally sensitive land, establishing a longer lasting cover such as native grasses or trees, as well as lowering the annual rental rate per acre on the offer.
Wickard noted that in Indiana producers also have the opportunity to enroll in a special CRP program the CREP program, “Indiana CREP is a unique federal/state partnership between USDA and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Eligible applicants in approved watersheds can enroll environmentally sensitive lands to improve water quality and wildlife habitat. Parts of 65 counties and ten watersheds in Indiana have lands eligible for enrollment in CREP. Currently there are 8,260 acres enrolled in CREP in these Indiana watersheds.”
Indiana is approved for six wildlife priority areas under the SAFE. These areas include habitat for the Northern Bobwhite Quail, Indiana Bat, Ring-necked Pheasant, American Woodcock, Sedge Wren/Grasshopper Sparrow, and Henslow’s Sparrow. Currently Indiana landowners have offered over 20,000 acres for enrollment under SAFE which has quickly become a popular CRP initiative.
Those interested in the more traditional Continuous CRP practices such as grassed waterways, filter strips, and field windbreaks still have the opportunity to offer acreage for these practices. In addition, there is a new continuous practice that focuses on habitat for the native pollinator and can be offered in acreages as small as 0.5 acres or whole fields. Interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local FSA office for details of producer, land, and practice eligibility.