Natural Resources Analysis

The Natural Resources Analysis Group (NRA), Economic Policy and Analysis Staff, serves the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and USDA as the primary analytical resource for the analysis of economic issues related to existing and proposed natural resource policies and programs, particularly the following: 

 For more information on the CRP programs go to Conservation Programs Related Topics  


Conservation Reserve Program Benefits

By protecting fragile and environmentally sensitive lands the CRP provides substantial conservation benefits by protecting highly erodible soils, improving water quality, enhancing wildlife populations, providing pollinator forage habitat, and sequestering carbon in soil and enhancing soil productivity. These benefits are estimated annually for the United States and 4 important geographic regions.


Conservation Reserve Program Information

The Conservation Reserve Program is a voluntary program that helps agricultural producers with marginal and certain environmentally sensitive agricultural land to establish conservation covers to protect the land and generate public benefits. CRP participants establish long-term, conservation covers to control soil erosion, improve water quality, enhance wildlife populations, and provide other benefits.


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Environmental Benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program - United States

The Conservation Reserve Program is a voluntary program that helps agricultural producers with marginal and certain environmentally sensitive agricultural land to establish conservation covers to protect the land and generate public benefits. CRP participants establish long-term, conservation covers to control soil erosion, improve water quality, enhance wildlife populations, and provide other benefits.

Environmental Benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program - Mississippi River Basin

The Mississippi River Basin includes all or parts of 31 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces encompassing 40 percent of the United States. The region provides primary grain and livestock production and drains into the Gulf of Mexico. The Conservation Reserve Program provides a tool to control erosion, enhance water quality by reducing sediment and nutrient delivery to waterways, restore wetlands and other wildlife habitat, and provide other valuable conservation benefits.

Environmental Benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program - Prairie Pothole Region

The Prairie Pothole Region is an important agricultural region with extensive areas of crop and grazing lands. This landscape is characterized by the multitude of depressional wetlands called potholes, created by glaciers that covered the region during the last ice age. The combination of tens of thousands of wetlands surrounded by grassland creates a habitat that produces 90 percent of the ducks that migrate south each year. The Prairie Pothole region has a substantial amount of marginal cropland that is a strong candidate for the CRP. In 2016, 4.5 million acres, nearly one fifth of the land enrolled in the CRP, were located in this region. Lands enrolled in the CRP provide numerous benefits including protecting soil productivity, improving water quality, enhancing waterfowl, grassland bird and wildlife populations, and slowing, storing, and infiltrating storm water runoff.

Environmental Benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program - Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America, has been the focus of Federal and State efforts to improve water quality to restore fish, crab, oyster, wildlife, and ecosystem health. The agricultural landowners within the watershed have adopted conservation practices to reduce sediment and nutrient loadings into waterways that empty into the bay. CRP assists these landowners to establish conservation covers on targeted fragile croplands and buffers. As these practices help water quality it is important to note the numerous other benefits CRP provides.

Environmental Benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program - Great Lakes

The Great Lakes contain 21% of the world's surface fresh water by volume. Enhancing and protecting the water quality of the lakes has been an important goal for the United States, Canadian, State, Providential, and local Governments as well as numerous organizations. Agricultural landowners have used the CRP to voluntarily establish conservation covers on marginal croplands to help improve water quality. As these practices help water quality it important to note the numerous other benefits CRP provides.

Note: All files in the table above are in .PDF format

Estimation Methodology (PDF) 


CRP Reports:

CRP Monitoring, Assessment and Evaluation Project (MAE)

The Farm Service Agency works with partners to identify MAE projects to quantify CRP environmental benefits to water quality and quantity, wildlife, and rural economies. Below are the results of completed projects, related studies, and a list of MAE projects that are now underway.

Studies Examining Multiple Benefits

These studies identify multiple benefits from land enrolled the CRP, including reduced nutrient and sediment runoff from fields, improved water quality from reduced runoff, enhanced wildlife habitat, better hydrologic function, and increased carbon sequestration.

Wildlife Studies 

CRP enhances wildlife habitat through its millions of acres of grass, trees, and wetlands. Numerous studies have identified benefits to wildlife populations. 

Water Quality and Quantity Studies 

CRP improves water quality in multiple ways. CRP reduces the nitrogen and phosphorus leaving a field in runoff and percolate. Grass filters and riparian buffers (partial field enrollments) intercept sediment, nutrients, and other contaminants before they enter waterways. Wetlands restored and constructed by CRP improve water quality by converting nitrate nitrogen into benign atmospheric nitrogen. Additionally, the CRP provides hydrologic storage, attenuates flood waters, and helps recharge aquifers. 

Ongoing Studies 

MAE projects often require multiple years of observation to complete. Listed are the projects that have been funded and are under way. 

Other Links 

Numerous organizations have monitoring and assessment programs that complement FSA’s MAE project and provide information on the benefits of the CRP.

Webinars 

View a list of Webinars available on this site.  


Additional information

Learn more about the Natural Resources Analysis group (PDF)