Intent and benefits of the federally-funded land conservation initiative
Missouri ranks in the top five states in the country when it comes to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments issued to participating farmers in 2023.
Landowners and agricultural producers in the Show-Me State received more than $99.8 million for their enrollment in the program designed to promote conservation practices.
Other states receiving the highest participant payments in 2023 include Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and South Dakota. Started in 1985 as a private-lands conservation effort, CRP is administered through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).
Landowners interested in applying for CRP should reach out to their local FSA office to see if they qualify for the program. Through CRP landowners receive rent payments in exchange for ceasing to farm or ranch parts of their property that are considered environmentally sensitive. Through CRP landowners are encouraged to plant cover crops and other species with the goal of improving the environmental health of the area.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the long-term purpose of CRP is “to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat”. The program is operated on a voluntary basis and the length of the agreements range from 10 to 15 years.
The USDA states the benefits of CRP include the protection of millions of acres of topsoil and the preservation of some of the country’s natural resources. The practices of planting approved grasses, trees and other plant species are implemented with the aim of controlling soil erosion, improving water quality and creating wildlife habitat.
During the course of the CRP contract, there are restrictions on the land use. Producers can utilize CRP acres for haying and grazing, however there are stipulations. Haying and grazing are given the go-ahead in instances where the activity will improve the quality of the cover species.
Additionally, landowners are allowed to hay or graze the CRP acres in the case of an emergency during natural disasters. For example, depending on the severity and region, producers would be authorized to graze livestock on CRP acres during a drought. In certain emergency situations, producers also have the permission to cut hay on their CRP contracted land.
Agricultural producers with CRP acres have the ability to use their land for livestock grazing and hay in non-emergency situations. The specifics vary from contract to contract, but non-emergency haying and grazing is permitted. In most cases, non-emergency haying can take place every three years. Non-emergency grazing is approved for every two years.
Before the CRP land can be accessed for hay or grazing, property owners must fill out a modified conservation plan. It’s best for producers to check with their local FSA representatives for specifics in regard to their operation.
According to the USDA, the number of acres enrolled in CRP has increased 21 percent since 2021. The FSA issued $1.77 billion in CRP payments this year. A total of 667,000 people received payments associated with their CRP contracts and more than 23 million acres are a part of the CRP.