USDA increases conservation program funding, broadens reach

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued more than $1.77 billion this year to agricultural producers and landowners through its Conservation Reserve Program, the agency reported today.

CRP is a voluntary program contract through which environmentally sensitive agricultural land is devoted to conservation benefits. CRP participants establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat. In return, FSA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.

CRP’s more than 667,000 participants received payments from USDA’s Farm Service Agency for their voluntary conservation efforts on more than 23 million acres of private land. Since 2021, CRP has grown by 21% in terms of acres enrolled.

The top five states for CRP participant payments are: Iowa ($402.5 million); Illinois ($172.7 million); Minnesota ($150.7 million); South Dakota ($129.5 million); and Missouri ($99.9 million).

Since 2021, FSA has made improvements to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program that reduce barriers by making the program more accessible to a broader cross-section of agricultural producers and new conservation partners. Improvements include flexibility for partners to provide matching funds in the form of cash, in-kind contributions, or technical assistance and the ability for FSA to invest in additional, full-time staff devoted to working directly with our CREP partners and program specialists in FSA’s state offices.

Since 2021, FSA has also entered into the first-ever Tribal Nations CREP agreements in partnership with the Cheyenne River, Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes. In 2022, USDA also entered into the Big Sioux River Watershed CREP agreement with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks to assist farmers, ranchers and agricultural landowners to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, enhance wildlife habitat, and create public hunting and fishing access.

FSA partnered with producers and landowners to enroll 3.9 million CRP this year, including 927,000 enrolled acres through General CRP, 2.3 million acres enrolled in Grassland CRP and 694,000 acres enrolled in Continuous CRP.