The USDA announced that agricultural producers and private landowners can begin applying for the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign-up starting April 17 through May 26, 2023. Among CRP enrollment opportunities, Grassland CRP is unique as a working lands program, allowing producers and landowners to continue grazing and haying practices while protecting grasslands and promoting plant and animal biodiversity and conservation.
Protecting grasslands with CRP not only benefits participants with annual rental payments and cost-share assistance, it also contributes positively to the economy of many regions, builds biodiversity and provides important carbon sequestration benefits to deliver lasting climate outcomes.
More than 2.4 million acres were enrolled through the 2022 Grassland CRP sign-up from agricultural producers and private landowners. That sign-up – the highest ever for the program – reflects the continued success and value of investments in voluntary, producer-led, working lands conservation programs. The current total participation in Grassland CRP is 6.3 million acres, which is part of the 23 million acres enrolled in CRP opportunities overall.
Since 2021, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers all CRP programs, has made several improvements to Grassland CRP to broaden the program’s reach, including:
- Creating two national priority zones to put focus on environmentally sensitive land, such as that prone to wind erosion
- Enhanced offers with 10 additional ranking points to producers and landowners who are historically underserved, including beginning farmers and military veterans
- Leveraging the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to engage historically underserved communities of tribal nations in the Great Plains
Other CRP sign-ups
General CRP sign-up closed on April 7. The program helps producers and landowners establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Additionally, general CRP includes a Climate-Smart Practice Incentive to help increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by helping producers and landowners establish trees and permanent grasses, enhance wildlife habitat and restore wetlands.
Under Continuous CRP, producers and landowners can enroll in CRP throughout the year. Offers are automatically accepted provided the producer and land meet the eligibility requirements, and the enrollment levels do not exceed the statutory cap. The Climate-Smart Practice Incentive is also available in continuous sign-up.
The FSA offers several additional enrollment opportunities within Continuous CRP, including the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Initiative, the Farmable Wetlands Program (FWP) and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Also available is the Clean Lakes Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR30) Initiative, which was originally piloted in 12 states but has been expanded nationwide, allowing producers and landowners to enroll in 30-year CRP contracts for water quality practices.
How to sign up
Landowners and producers interested in Grassland CRP, or any other CRP enrollment option, should contact their local USDA Service Center to learn more or to apply for the program before their deadlines.
Producers with expiring CRP acres can use the Transition Incentives Program (TIP), which incentivizes producers who sell or enter a long-term lease with a beginning, veteran or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher who plans to sustainably farm or ranch the land.
—From a USDA news release