WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will conduct open sign up periods for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and CRP Grasslands in early 2021. Sign up for general CRP runs from January 4 to February 12, 2021, and signup for CRP Grasslands runs from March 15 to April 23, 2021. Both are competitive programs that provide annual rental payments for land used for conservation purposes.
“The coronavirus pandemic has placed incredible stress on our farming communities,” Klobuchar said. “As the backbone of our economy, farmers throughout Minnesota and across the country deserve our support during periods of uncertainty. I worked to increase the amount of land covered by the Conservation Reserve Program in the 2018 Farm Bill because of the program’s many benefits for soil health, wildlife habitat, and water quality. I encourage interested producers to sign up.”
“For decades, the Conservation Reserve Program has provided income to Minnesota farmers and ranchers who have taken actions to improve water quality, soil health, wildlife habitat and more,” Smith said. “In October I pressed USDA to increase incentive payments to help more producers to participate. I encourage interested Minnesota farmers and ranchers interested in CRP to contact their local USDA offices during the sign-up periods.”
The 2018 Farm Bill includes several of Klobuchar’s priorities, including provisions to increase acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to 27 million acres and further expand and incentivize land transitions to beginning farmers, based on Klobuchar and Senator John Thune’s (R-SD) Conservation Program Improvement Act.
The 2018 Farm Bill also includes conservation efforts led by Smith, including a provision from Smith’s SOIL Stewardship Act to expand efforts to reduce carbon emissions, prevent soil erosion, improve water quality and reform the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). It also includes Smith’s amendment streamlining the transition between two working lands conservation programs—the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and CSP.
Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to the nation’s environment and economy. CRP general signup is held annually. The competitive general signup includes increased opportunities for enrollment of wildlife habitat through the State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative.
CRP Grasslands helps landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, and certain other lands while maintaining the areas as grazing lands. Protecting grasslands contributes positively to the economy of many regions, provides biodiversity of plant and animal populations, and improves environmental quality. A separate CRP Grasslands signup is offered each year following general signup.
Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. It was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing many conservation and economic benefits. The program marks its 35-year anniversary this December.