USDA will accept 2.8 million acres offered by landowners during the Conservation Reserve Program’s (CRP) 41st sign-up period, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced yesterday.

This is the second consecutive year that USDA has offered a general sign-up. More than 38,000 offers were received on about 3.8 million acres nationwide, said Vilsack. The average rental rate on accepted acres is $48.

“Interest in this sign-up was high and despite the high commodity prices, I’m pleased that producers and landowners continue to voluntarily protect their most environmentally sensitive lands,” he said.

Offers for enrollment were accepted based on the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI), which is comprised of five environmental factors – wildlife enhancement, water quality, soil erosion, enduring benefits and air quality – plus cost. Proposed acreage was rated on those factors in order to qualify for the program. The minimal acceptable EBI level for this sign-up was 221.

Currently, there more than 748,000 CRP contracts with 31 million acres enrolled, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) reports. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized USDA to maintain CRP enrollment at up to 32 million acres.

To learn more about CRP, visit your FSA county office or online at www.fsa.usda.gov/crp.