The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is currently taking applications to enroll environmentally sensitive agricultural land into perennial cover for 10 to 15 years through the federally funded Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
Participants receive annual rental payments and 50 percent cost-share to establish the perennial cover, which can be grasses, forbs, and/or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat. The 2018 Farm Bill created more haying and grazing management opportunities for land enrolled in CRP as well.
A cropping history of 4 out of 6 years from 2012 to 2017 is required to enroll cropland. It also must be physically and legally capable of being planted in a normal manner to an agricultural commodity. Land that was previously enrolled in CRP and expired on Sept. 30 of 2017, 2018 or 2019 that was not allowed to be re-enrolled in those years, has one chance to be re-enrolled this year. Land currently enrolled that will be expiring on Sept. 30, 2020 is also currently eligible to be re-enrolled in CRP.
Through Feb. 28, 2020, applications can be submitted through the general CRP enrollment period. Each offer is ranked according its Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) score. The EBI assesses the value of each offer for wildlife habitat, air quality, water quality, reduced erosion, and benefits that will likely endure beyond the contract period. After the enrollment period ends, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will decide what the EBI score will need to be at or above to be accepted. Offers that are accepted will have contract start dates of Oct. 1, 2020.
Here are a few tips to help increase your general CRP offer’s EBI score and your chances of it being accepted.
• Offer a high diversity mix of native species.
• Establish pollinator friendly habitat or add a food plot.
• Consider offering only the portions of your fields with the highest erodibility index value. Your local FSA office can help you determine what your erodibility index values are.
• As a last resort, consider accepting less than the maximum rental rate.
Another option to enroll environmentally sensitive land into CRP is through the non-competitive continuous CRP enrollment. Cropland must meet the same basic eligibility requirements as for a general CRP enrollment, but must also meet additional targeted environmental requirements. Practices like buffer strips, wetland restoration, duck nesting habitat, pollinator habitat, prairie strips, windbreaks, shelterbelts, or living snow fences are eligible to be enrolled through continuous CRP. Marginal pasture land may also be eligible.
Continuous CRP enrolled land also receives an annual rental rate and 50% cost-share. New land enrolled through continuous CRP also receives a Signup Incentive Payment equal to 32.5 percent of the first full year annual rental payment and an additional Practice Incentive Payment of 5 percent for installing the practice. These incentive payments are not available for land enrolled through general CRP.
New land can be enrolled in continuous CRP year-round. Land that was previously enrolled in CRP and expired on Sept. 30 of 2017, 2018 or 2019, and was unable to re-enroll in those years, has one chance to be re-enrolled through Continuous CRP through Aug. 21, 2020. Land currently enrolled that will be expiring on Sept. 30, 2020, can be re-enrolled in continuous CRP starting April 1 through Aug. 21, 2020.
CRP plays an important role in South Dakota’s wildlife populations. “The undisturbed grassland habitat that CRP provides is vitally important for grassland nesting songbirds, pheasants, waterfowl, as well as big game species like white-tailed deer,” said Chad Switzer, GFP wildlife program administrator. “There is a proven record of the benefits of CRP in South Dakota in both influencing wildlife populations and by providing producers with another option in their land management decisions.”
For more information or to submit an offer, agricultural producers should set up an appointment with their local USDA Farm Service Agency Office.