The USDA’s Farm Service Agency says it’s accepted more than 1.2 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands during the recent signup. The number of acres offered during signup was 1.9 million, more than three times the number offered during the last signup period in 2016.
Through CRP Grasslands, farmers and ranchers can protect grasslands, rangelands, and pastures, while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices, such as haying, mowing, or harvesting seed from the enrolled land. The timing of some of those activities may be temporarily restricted by the primary nesting season for birds.
“This large and unprecedented enrollment is a reflection of the popularity and the importance of CRP Grasslands,” says FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “The program emphasizes support for grazing operations and plant and animal biodiversity while protecting land under the greatest threat of conversion or development.”
Participants receive an annual rental payment and may also receive up to 50 percent cost-share for establishing approved conservation practices. The duration of the CRP contract is either 10 or 15 years.
FSA ranked the large number of acres offered based on several factors, including the existence of expiring CRP land, threat of conversion or development, existing grassland, and the predominance of native species cover and cost.
The 2018 Farm Bill set aside not fewer than two million acres for CRP Grasslands enrollment. CRP turns 35 years old this year and has 21.9 million acres currently enrolled.