U.S. Senator Tina Smith Presses USDA to Increase Incentive Payments to Farmers to Stop Decline in Conservation Reserve Program Enrollment

WASHINGTON, D.C. [10/20/20]–U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is pressing U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to increase incentive payments to stop the enrollment decline in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which plays a key role in protecting environmentally-sensitive farm land, stopping soil erosion, improving water quality and preserving wildlife habitat.

In a letter to Perdue Monday, Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, pushed him to significantly increase Practice Incentive Payments (PIP) and to begin making rental rate incentive payments, both tools that past Administrations have used to maintain strong enrollment in CRP.  She was joined on the letter by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

“CRP is an invaluable program that provides financial incentives for farmers to set aside environmentally-sensitive parts of their land for conservation purposes,” the Senators wrote to Perdue. “This benefits both farmers and the environment by improving farmers’ bottom lines and incentivizing responsible land stewardship.”

The Senators pointed out that during a time of declining CRP enrollment, the USDA has offered PIPs at only 5 percent of the cost of the practice, even after the 2018 Farm Bill authorized the USDA to pay farmers up to 50 percent of the cost. Past Administrations have also offered rental rate payments to incentivize enrollment, something the Trump Administration has not done. 

In 2020, 5.36 million acres of CRP land are scheduled to expire, while just 3.54 million acres have enrolled in the program, resulting the in loss of nearly two million acres, the Senators said.

The Senators asked Secretary Perdue to explain why it reduced CRP incentive payments to a minimum, especially during a time the farm economy continues to experience tough times.

“At a time when we should be encouraging producers to participate, these changes to CRP are taking away incentives for farmers to enroll in the program,” the Senators wrote. “We urge the Administration to implement the program as Congress intended, and support farmers dedicated to conservation and responsible land stewardship.”