The new administration continues to promote conservation initiatives across the agriculture industry. Earlier this year, the USDA announced that enrollment for general CRP in 2021 would stay open indefinitely. Now, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced plans to further expand and enhance the program moving forward.
It should come as no surprise that the administration is first focusing on the Conservation Reserve Program. CRP has proven successful at improving soil health, reducing erosion, protecting local water supplies, and restoring wildlife habitat and populations. However, enrollment for the program peaked in 2007.
By providing additional incentives and increased rental rates, the new administration hopes to improve support and grow enrollment. Here is an overview of some of the changes that are happening.
Increased Rental Rates and Improved Incentives
CRP is a program that pays contract holders market-based rental payments in exchange for taking marginal land out of active crop production and establishing native vegetation. However, some farmers believe that they can still come out money ahead by either abandoning marginal land or increasing the use of fertilizers and continuing to farm it. Both of these actions can result in further damage to the land and the surrounding environment.
To make CRP more competitive, FSA is adjusting soil rental rates to provide more flexibility and increased payments in certain situations. Incentives for continuous CRP are increasing from 20% to 50%. Certain practices are seeing an increase in payments and incentives as well. For example, CPs focused on water quality improvement are having their rates increased. A minimum rental rate is also being established for CRP grasslands, ensuring contract holders everywhere are paid a fair amount.
Climate-Smart Practice Incentive
Carbon sequestration is continuing to become a big focus for environmental initiatives across the world. Farmlands have a lot of untapped potential here since farmers have largely been kept out of carbon markets (despite the fact that herbaceous carbon sequestration provides a number of advantages over woody sequestration).
To further promote carbon sequestration under CRP, FSA is introducing the Climate-Smart Practice Incentive. With the Climate-Smart Practice Incentive, contract holders receive an additional annual payment based on the sequestering benefits their practice provides.
Should the government eventually establish a carbon market under the USDA, farmers and landowners could benefit even further from sequestering carbon.
SAFE Returns to CCRP
The CRP SAFE initiative is being moved back under continuous CRP. SAFE focuses on restoring habitat that is vital to wildlife in particular states. Under CCRP, SAFE no longer requires interested parties to submit bids. If a farmer or landowner qualifies and acres are available, they are automatically enrolled in the program.
Now is the Time to Join CRP
These are simply a few examples of the changes and expansions coming to CRP. If you’re considering joining, now is the time to act. Enrollment for both general CRP and CCRP is open and likely will remain so as long as there are acres available. Currently, a little over 4 million of the 25 million available acres are still open for enrollment.
By 2023, enrollment for CRP will be expanded to 27 million acres.
If you’re looking to enroll in CRP, we can help. FDCE provides full-service CRP solutions. Not only does this include the initial CP selection and signup, but we also take care of CRP seed purchasing, planting, herbicide application, documentation, and report submission to FSA. Thanks to CRP’s cost-share reimbursement, our services practically pay for themselves.
Whether you’re looking to establish grasslands or pollinator habitat, FDCE can help ensure a smooth and successful conversion. Contact us today to get started.