On October 2, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, 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 voluntary conservation program in the United States. Originally designed to protect the nation’s soil and water quality, CRP was enhanced to include wildlife habitat.
It has since become a major contributor to the success of private lands wildlife management throughout the U.S.
CRP provides rental payments to landowners who agree to remove crop land from production to improve soil health, water quality or wildlife habitat. Landowners agree to plant species that will help improve environmental health and quality throughout 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 such as droughts or floods. Through these measures, CRP serves as an important resiliency tool.
For sportsmen and women, CRP enrollment combined with increased public access, accomplished through other Farm Bill programs, benefits wildlife habitat and leads to better hunting opportunities.
There has not been a General CRP sign-up period since Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016).
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 Farm Services Agency to develop and announce rules related to the upcoming General CRP sign-up period in December, and to provide an adequate sign-up period to allow landowners to work with conservation partners and ensure all conservation practices are eligible for consideration in this and future enrollment periods.
More information on the Conservation Reserve Program is available on the USDA CRP website.