The goals of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which was initiated by the Food Security Act of 1985, include reducing soil erosion and sedimentation, improving water quality, maintaining fish and wildlife habitat, and providing income support to farmers. The program provides for annual rental payments to be made to farmers who remove from production,for a minimum of ten years, cropland on highly erodible or otherwise environmentally sensitive terrain, such as wetlands. In addition, the farmer carries out certain conservation measures over the life of the contract, as agreed upon by the participant and the SCS district conservationist. Up to 50 percent cost-share is available for establishing these conservation practices.
How the program works
Farmers submit bids to their county ASCS office during sign-up periods announced by the ASCS, specifying the payment rate they would be willing to accept in exchange for taking their sensitive cropland out of production. If the ASCS accepts the bid, the farmer works with SCS staff to develop a conservation plan and then enters into a contract with the ASCS. Once the land has been enrolled in the reserve program, the land cannot be farmed during the term of the contract. Land that is under a Water Bank Program (see description pp. 18-19) contract and meets the eligibility requirements of the CRP may be included in the land proposed for enrollment in the CRP. The maximum annual rental payment is $50,000 per person per year and cannot be higher than local rental rates for comparable land. Rental payments are not counted against payment limitations applicable to commodity price support and production adjustment programs. CRP participants can also receive up to 50 percent cost-share from the ASCS for adoption of the practices approved in the conservation plan. Any permits or water rights that might be required for implementation of the plan are to be obtained by the landowner.
The contract may be extended for up to five years after the initial ten years have passed. In late 1994, the earliest contracts had not yet expired, but it was anticipated that contracts would be renewed only on a very selective basis.
Nationwide. CRP eligibility is limited to highly erodible land, land that is contributing to a serious water quality problem, and/or prior converted wetlands (wetlands brought into agricultural production prior to December 23, 1985). No funding was authorized for this program for federal fiscal year 1994. Further, the enabling federal legislation for this program is up for reauthorization in 1995, a process which may result in changes to the program. For more information, contact your local ASCS or SCS office, listed under the U. S. Department of Agricul-ture in the telephone directory; or the SCS State Agronomist at (916) 757-8258.