A total of 2.8 million acres have been enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The 2021 CRP acreage falls short of the goal of enrolling four million new acres in the program. Despite not meeting USDA’s goal for enrollment, the figures demonstrate positive movement in increasing the overall acreage enrolled in the program. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has accepted more than 897,000 acres for enrollment through the Continuous Signup. Additionally, nearly 1.9 million acres have been accepted through the General CRP Signup period which ended in July.
“Despite Congress raising the enrollment target in the 2018 Farm Bill, there have been decreases in enrollment for the past two years. The changes we made this spring have put us on the path to reverse this trend,” FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said in a press release. “Even with the improved direction, USDA will still be about 4 million acres below the enrollment target. The CRP benefits for producers, sportsmen, wildlife, conservation and climate are numerous and well documented. We cannot afford to let them to be left on the table.”
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, acreage limits were raised to 25 million acres for 2021. CRP acreage limits will progressively increase, reaching a total of 27 million acres by 2023. President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Whit Fosburgh said that CRP enrollment has hit 30-year lows in recent years. Contracts for four million acres are also scheduled to expire by October of 2022. However, the enrollment periods for the CRP Grasslands Signup, as well as the Continuous Signup remain open. USDA is expecting the additional CRP acreage that will be enrolled moving forward will cover the expiring acreage.
Back in April, USDA made adjustments to CRP to help attract more agricultural producers and private landowners to enroll in CRP. Higher payment rates and other incentives have been made available through the program. Acreage that is currently enrolled in CRP has already made significant contributions to addressing issues of climate change. More than 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent have been mitigated through enrolled acreage.