The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made significant updates to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP expansion includes increased payment rates along with further incentives to help spur participation. USDA hopes that improvements to the program will assist the department in achieving the goal of enrolling four million new acres. The announcement was made at the White House National Climate Task Force meeting.
“With CRP, the United States has one of the world’s most successful voluntary conservation programs. We need to invest in CRP and let it do what it does best—preserve topsoil, sequester carbon, and reduce the impacts of climate change,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “We’re working in partnership with producers and local organizations through USDA programs to bring new voices and communities to the table to help combat climate change.”
CRP practices have a long history of sequestering carbon, reducing nitrogen runoff, and preserving topsoil. The program is currently capped at 25 million acres with plans to increase the acreage cap to 27 million acres by 2023. As part of the CRP expansion, Vilsack also announced that USDA’s Farm Service Agency will be rolling out a new Climate-Smart Practice Incentive. The purpose is to put a greater emphasis on mitigating the effects of climate change. Climate-Smart CRP practices include the development of wildlife habitat, the establishment of trees and permanent grasses, and wetland restoration.
The CRP expansion has updated soil rental rates to provide more flexibility in rate adjustments. Payment rates for certain practices to benefit water quality have been raised from 10 to 20 percent. Practice Incentive payments have also been increased from 20 to 50 percent. The updates also include the establishment of a CRP Grassland minimum rental rate.
USDA is increasing technical assistance offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service by $140 million. An additional $10 million will be made available for the CRP Monitoring, Assessment and Evaluation program to track the success of new CRP contracts. USDA is also investing $330 in the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and $25 million for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials.