Since launching with the 1985 Farm Bill, the Conservation Reserve Program has set out to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and restore wildlife habitat. It does so by paying farmers and landowners to take marginal farmland out of active production.
In place of traditional farm crops, which can deplete soil health and fertility overtime, farmers establish native vegetation. This allows the soil to replenish nutrients while being protected from wind and rain. Healthy, protected soil is more resilient to water runoff, which keeps local water supplies clean. Meanwhile, native vegetation acts as both habitat and a food source for native wildlife.
All of that sounds good in theory, but the question remains, does it actually work?
The answer is yes. In a little over 3 decades, CRP has not only helped farmers breathe life into underperforming land, but it has helped restore balance to nature and protect some of our most sensitive lands.
CRP Protects Soil
Erosion from wind and rain eats away at the precious topsoil that farmers depend on. Protecting topsoil is vital, as it takes around 500 years for 1 inch of new topsoil to form naturally. Unfortunately, traditional row crops leave topsoil exposed, and farming practices such as tilling break up soil structure, further increasing erosion.
The native vegetation used in CRP, however, provides ample cover for soil, protecting it from wind and rain. Currently, CRP protects 22.4 million acres of topsoil in America. As of 2015, it has prevented over 9 billion tons of soil from eroding.
CRP is also great for sequestering carbon, which reduces the effects of global warming. Regular farming disrupts soil, releasing carbon into the air. Because CRP is planted to perennial vegetation, carbon remains stored in the ground. CRP sequesters an average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. That’s the equivalent of taking 9 million cars off the road.
CRP Keeps Water Clean
The superior cover provided by CRP vegetation protects soil from rainfall. Additionally, healthier soil is better able to absorb rain. All of this reduces runoff, protecting nearby water supplies. Farmland is typically filled with residue from herbicides and fertilizer. When rainfall washes away soil, these chemicals enter water supplies such as rivers, lakes, and more. This is not only bad for wildlife, but it can be harmful to people as well.
It can also lead to large scale issues such as the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Thanks to CRP, nitrogen runoff has been reduced by 95%, while phosphorus runoff has been reduced by 85%.
CRP Provides a Home for Wildlife
With the 1990 Farm Bill, CRP was modified to include establishing wildlife habitat and wetlands. Since then, ducks have seen their population increase by 30%, which is approximately 2 million ducks per year. The Northern Bobwhite quail has seen its population increase by approximately 730, 000. Ring-necked pheasants have increased by 22%. This has made CRP particularly beneficial to local hunters.
It also provides much needed habitat for pollinators such as the honeybee and monarch butterfly. Pollinators affect 35% of the world’s food crop. The honeybee alone contributes $15 billion to the US economy every year. But between 1947 and 2005, the population of honeybees in the US decreased by nearly 60%.
Meanwhile, the monarch butterfly, once one of our most prevalent pollinators, is on the verge of being put on the endangered species list due largely to a loss of habitat and milkweed.
CRP has helped to restore habitat for these and other pollinators, promoting pollinator diversity and improving the health of surrounding croplands.
See What CRP Can Do for You
The best way to truly see the impact of CRP is to enroll in the program. If you have highly erodible or underperforming land, CRP can provide financial compensation while restoring soil health and protecting the surrounding environment.
Everyone wins with CRP.
FDCE provides full-service CRP solutions that handle the entire establishment process for you. Not only do we supply the necessary CRP seed and planting equipment, but we take care of the documentation and report submission to FSA for cost–share reimbursement.
With a 97% success rate establishing over 370,000 acres of CRP, you can trust you’re in good hands with FDCE. Best of all, thanks to CRP’s cost-sharing, our services practically pay for themselves. If you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of CRP, contact FDCE today!