For Immediate Release
February 23, 2012
Ethel Truly, Communications Coordinator
WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2012 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week a new conservation initiative to protect up to 750,000 acres of the nation's most highly erodible croplands. The new initiative will assist producers with targeting their most highly erodible cropland (land with an erodibility index of 20 or greater) by enabling them to plant wildlife-friendly, long-term cover through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
Producers can enroll land on a continuous basis beginning this summer at their Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. With the use of soil survey and geographic information system data, local FSA staff can determine a producer's eligibility for the initiative.
"This announcement will strengthen CRP by focusing on protecting the most environmentally sensitive land," said Vilsack. "It will target our limited resources where they can make the most difference and best drive economic growth. I urge landowners with highly erodible land to visit their FSA office to learn more about this program."
Lands eligible for this program are typically the least productive land on the farm. In many cases the most cost-effective option to reduce erosion is to put the land into a wildlife friendly cover that will improve habitat, reduce sediment and nutrient runoff, and decrease wind erosion. Programs such as CRP are important conservation safeguards. They prevent the return of the dust storms of the 1930s and the ravages of the unmitigated gully erosions of our past.
CRP is a voluntary program designed to help farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers protect their environmentally sensitive land. Under this new initiative for highly erodible cropland, eligible landowners will receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland. Land not now enrolled in CRP can be enrolled on a continuous basis for a period of 10 years if all eligibility requirements are met. Current CRP participants with eligible land expiring on Sept.30, 2012, may make new contract offers.
CRP has a 25-year legacy of successfully protecting the nation's natural resources through voluntary participation, while providing significant economic and environmental benefits to rural communities across the United States. In addition to the new initiative, USDA will conduct a four-week CRP general signup, beginning on March12 and ending April6. Currently, about 30 million acres are enrolled in CRP.
- CRP continues to make major contributions to national efforts to improve water and air quality and to prevent soil erosion by protecting the most sensitive areas, including those prone to flash flooding and runoff. At the same time, it has helped increase populations of pheasants, quail, ducks, rare species like the sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken, and other species. Highlights of CRP include:
- CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and two million acres of riparian buffers.
- Each year, CRP keeps more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorous from flowing into our nation's streams, rivers, and lakes.
- CRP provides $1.8 billion annually to landowners—dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs.
- CRP is the largest private lands carbon sequestration program in the country. By placing vulnerable cropland into conservation, CRP sequesters carbon in plants and soil, and reduces both fuel and fertilizer usage. In 2010, CRP resulted in carbon sequestration equal to taking almost 10 million cars off the road.
- In 2011, FSA enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices.
Producers are encouraged to contact their FSA office or visit FSA's website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/crp
for additional information regarding CRP.
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