USDA Farm Service Agency's (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them use environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. 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, FSA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.
The Food Security Act of 1985, as amended, authorized CRP. The program is also governed by regulations published in 7 CFR, part 1410. The program is implemented by FSA on behalf of USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation.
CRP protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion and is designed to safeguard the nation's natural resources. By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country.
FSA administers CRP, while technical support functions are provided by:
- USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS);
- USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA);
- Local soil and water conservation districts;
- Other non-federal providers of technical assistance.
CRP General Sign-Up
CRP Continuous Sign-Up
Environmentally desirable land devoted to certain conservation practices may be enrolled at any time, when authorized, under CRP continuous sign-up. Certain eligibility requirements still apply, but offers are not subject to competitive bidding. Further information on CRP continuous sign-up is available in the FSA fact sheet "Conservation Reserve Program Continuous Sign-Up
To be eligible for CRP enrollment, a producer must have owned or operated the land for at least 12 months prior to close of the CRP sign-up period, unless:
- The new owner acquired the land due to the previous owner's death;
- The ownership change occurred due to foreclosure where the owner exercised a timely right or redemption in accordance with state law or;
- The circumstances of the acquisition present adequate assurance to FSA that the new owner did not acquire the land for the purpose of placing it in CRP.
To be eligible for placement in CRP, land must be cropland that is planted or considered planted to an agricultural commodity for four of the previous six crop years from 2002 to 2007, and that is physically and legally capable of being planted (no planting restrictions due to an easement or other legally binding instrument) in a normal manner to an agricultural commodity.
Additional Cropland Requirements
In addition to the eligible land requirements, cropland must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have a weighted average erosion index of eight or higher;
- Be enrolled in a CRP contract that expires Sep. 30 or;
- Be located in a national or state CRP conservation priority area.
FSA provides CRP participants with annual rental payments, including certain incentive payments and cost-share assistance:
- Rental Payments - In return for establishing long-term, resource-conserving covers, FSA provides annual rental payments to participants. FSA bases rental rates on the relative productivity of the soils within each county and the average dryland cash rent using data provided by the National Agricultural Statistical Service or cash-rent equivalent as guidelines. The maximum CRP rental rate for each offer is calculated in advance of enrollment. Producers may offer land at that rate or offer a lower rental rate to increase the likelihood that their offer will be accepted.
- Cost-Share Assistance - FSA provides cost-share assistance to participants who establish approved cover on eligible cropland. The cost-share assistance can be an amount not more than 50 percent of the participants' costs in establishing approved practices.
- Other Incentives - FSA may offer additional financial incentives of up to 20 percent of the annual payment for certain continuous sign-up practices.
Ranking CRP General Sign-Up Offers
Offers for CRP contracts are ranked according to the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI). FSA collects data for each of the EBI factors based on the relative environmental benefits for the land offered. Each eligible offer is ranked in comparison to all other offers and selections made from that ranking. FSA uses the following EBI 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;
For More Information
For more information on CRP, contact a local FSA office or click this link to visit FSA's CRP website
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