screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-4-28-22-pmFarmers and ranchers rely on natural resources to grow food and raise livestock, which makes programs that voluntarily incentivize conservation practices – like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – even more pertinent to rural America.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certainly recognizes the benefits of voluntary, incentive-based conservation practices. On November 30, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced they will be accepting more than half a million acres offered by producers across 34 states through the CRP Grasslands enrollment. And, there is still time for producers to participate in the current enrollment period that closes on December 16th.

Through CRP, FSA pays a yearly rental payment in exchange for farmers and ranchers removing environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and planting species that will improve environmental quality. According to the FSA announcement, approximately two-thirds of the total 504,000 acres are located in counties with the highest threat for development, while nearly 60 percent of the acres are in wildlife priority areas.

Farmers and ranchers interested in the CRP Grasslands program are encouraged to contact their local FSA office before December 16th to learn more.

And, for small-scale livestock producers, the current enrollment period for CRP Grasslands also offers a practice specifically tailored to small-scale grazing operations with fewer than 100 head of cows (or the equivalent) on pasture. The practice is meant to broaden participation among farming operations of all sizes, operational types, and geographical diversity.

In addition, more than 70 percent of the acres that have been accepted from the current enrollment period are from beginning farmers, veterans and underserved producers.

CRP is one of several voluntary conservation-related programs overseen by FSA. These programs work to address a large number of farming and ranching related conservation issues such as improving water quality, reducing soil erosion, and increasing habitat for threatened wildlife species. More information about FSA Conservation programs, including CRP, is available here.

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