The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) remains popular. USDA received nearly 48,000 offers on more than 4.5 million acres of land for enrollment in the CRP. Sign-up was open for five weeks.

USDA will accept 3.9 million acres (of the 4.5 million offered) in the CRP, according to an announcement made today by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. USDA has enrolled nearly 12 million acres in the CRP since 2009, when Vilsack took office. A total of 29.6 million acres in 736,000 contracts are currently enrolled in the CRP.

USDA is targeting highly erodible land with an Erosion Index (EI) of 20 or greater for the CRP, as well as grasslands, wetlands and wildlife habitat.

CRP is a voluntary program designed to help farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers protect their environmentally sensitive land. Eligible landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland throughout the duration of 10- to 15-year contracts. It has been in operation for 25 years.

The offers for enrollment were selected based on an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) that looks at wildlife enhancement, water quality, soil erosion, enduring benefits and air quality. The minimal acceptable EBI level for this sign-up was 209. The average rental rate per acre for this sign-up is $51.24.

In 2011, USDA enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air, filter drinking water and prevent soil erosion.

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