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On October 2, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, in conjunction with 35 other conservation organizations, sent a letter to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the USDA to fully implement the Farm Bill’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
CRP is the largest and most successful voluntary conservation program in the United States. Originally designed to protect our nation’s soil and water quality, CRP was enhanced to include wildlife habitat and has since become a major contributor to the success of private lands wildlife management throughout the U.S.
CRP works by providing rental payments to landowners who agree to remove crop land from production to improve soil health, water quality, or wildlife habitat. Instead, landowners agree to plant species that will help improve environmental health and quality throughout the length of the contract period, which usually lasts 10-15 years. Often, landowners replace row crops with native grass communities which can then be used as emergency livestock forage during periods of extreme weather (e.g., droughts or flooding events). Through these measures, CRP serves as an important resiliency tool for our nation’s producers. For sportsmen and women, CRP enrollment combined with increased public access that is accomplished through other Farm Bill programs, greatly benefits wildlife habitat and leads to better hunting opportunities and success rates.
Unfortunately, there has not been a General CRP sign-up period since Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016), meaning that landowners who are interested in applying for the program have not had the opportunity to do so. In that time, previously established contracts have expired without a chance for renewal, and current CRP enrollment is well below the FY2019 cap of 24-million acres. The letter encourages the USDA’s Farm Services Agency to develop and announce rules related to the upcoming General CRP sign-up period in December, provide an adequate sign-up period which will allow landowners to work with conservation partners to take full advantage of the CRP program, and ensure that all conservation practices are eligible for consideration in this and future enrollment periods.
For more information on the Conservation Reserve Program, please visit the USDA’s CRP website.
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