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Deadline approaching for land conservation program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced enrollment dates and new incentives for farmers and landowners interested in participating in the Conservation Reserve Program.

The announcement was made regarding the CRP General and CRP Grasslands signups — popular voluntary programs that offer annual rental payments for land taken out of agricultural production, and instead dedicated to conservation.

Under the CRP General signup, farmers and landowners establish resource-conserving plant species, such as certain grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitats. This year the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, which manages the program, is adding a one-time 10% inflationary adjustment for the life of the contract, and is offering more flexibility on adjusting soil rental rates.

In addition, the FSA has updated the grasslands signup to establish a minimum rental rate of $15 per acre, and new National Grassland Priority Zones—targeting grasslands in migratory corridors and environmentally sensitive areas.

“This latest-round CRP General will provide Climate-Smart Practice Incentives, in addition to traditional practice rental rates, to encourage farmers to implement practices that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gases,” Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said. “CRP Grasslands will help farmers protect grassland while maintaining the areas as grazing lands.”

Interested farmers have until July 23 to apply for the CRP General signup, and the FSA will accept applications for the grasslands signup July 12 to Aug. 20.

The higher rental rates and new incentives are an effort by the USDA to focus on climate mitigation and attract an additional 4 million acres into the CRP. The program currently has 20.8 million acres enrolled, below its 2021 cap of 25 million acres. That threshold will gradually increase to 27 million acres by 2023.

Banks added that Virginia farmers “are good stewards of the land, and the CRP is an effective tool for farmers to use in managing their land and natural resources for the benefit of both the resource and society.”

CRP contracts run between 10 and 15 years, and certain eligibility requirements must be met for the general and grasslands signups. Producers and landowners interested in enrolling should contact the FSA office at their local USDA Service Center.