Sign-up for USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will be held until June 14. A May 23 to Sept. 30 sign-up has been set for continuous CRP, which includes the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement Initiative, Highly Erodible Land Initiative, Grassland Restoration Initiative and other programs.

“As always, we expect strong competition to enroll acres into CRP, and we urge interested producers to maximize their environmental benefits and to make cost-effective offers,” says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “CRP is an important program for protecting environmentally sensitive lands from erosion and sedimentation, and for ensuring the sustainability of our groundwater, lakes, rivers, ponds and streams.”

Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance.

Contracts for CRP run between 10 and 15 years. Currently, about 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP through 700,000 contracts on 390,000 farms, according to USDA. Roughly 3.3 million acres’ worth of contracts will expire on Sept. 30.

Offers for general sign-up CRP contracts are ranked according to an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI). USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) collects data for each of the EBI factors based on the relative environmental benefits for the land offered. FSA uses the following factors to assess the environmental benefits for the land offered:

  • Wildlife habitat benefits resulting from covers on contract acreage;
  • Water-quality benefits from reduced erosion, runoff and leaching;
  • On-farm benefits from reduced erosion;
  • Benefits that will likely endure beyond the contract period;
  • Air-quality benefits from reduced wind erosion; and
  • Cost.

For more on CRP and other FSA programs, visit a local FSA service center or www.fsa.usda.gov.