Saint Paul, Minn., July 23, 2013 – Deb Crusoe, State Executive Director for the Minnesota Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will accept 1.7 million acres offered under the 45th Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up that ended in June.
Minnesota FSA received over 1250 offers on more than 33,000 acres of land, demonstrating CRP’s continuing appeal as one of our nation’s most successful voluntary programs for soil, water, and wildlife conservation.
Since 2009, USDA has enrolled nearly 12 million acres in new CRP. Currently, there are more than 26.9 million acres enrolled on 700,000 contracts nationwide.
In addition to today’s announcement, over the last four years, USDA has set aside significant acreage under CRP’s Continuous enrollment programs to target habitat conservation on especially important lands. This year, farmers and ranchers have already offered more than 370,000 acres under Continuous CRP signup.
CRP is a voluntary program that allows eligible landowners to receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible farmland throughout the duration of their 10 to 15 year contracts.
Under CRP, farmers and ranchers plant grasses and trees in fields and along streams or rivers. The plantings prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
In 2012, CRP helped to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous losses from farm fields by 605 million pounds and 121 million pounds respectively. CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and associated buffers and reduces soil erosion by more than 300 million tons per year. CRP also provides $2.0 billion annually to landowners—dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs.
In addition, CRP sequesters more carbon dioxide than any other conservation program in the country, and also reduces both fuel and fertilizer use. Yearly, CRP results in carbon sequestration equal to taking almost 10 million cars off the road.
USDA selected offers for enrollment based on an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) comprised of five environmental factors plus cost. The five environmental factors are: (1) wildlife enhancement, (2) water quality, (3) soil erosion, (4) enduring benefits, and (5) air quality.