LYONS, Neb. — Applications are now being accepted for a new pilot-program being offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. 

Sign ups for the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP), which is part of the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), began March 30 and continue through Aug. 21. SHIPP is tailored toward soil health and water quality needs in the Prairie Pothole region, and is available in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. 

“CRP is one of USDA’s oldest conservation programs and its primary purpose is to conserve and improve soil, water quality and create and maintain wildlife habitat,” said Anna Johnson, policy manager for the Center for Rural Affairs. “SHIPP is another avenue to assist farmers and ranchers to establish long-term, resource-conserving practices on their operations.” 

Because enrolled acres will be capped at 50,000 between the five states, applications will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Landowners are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. 

As part of SHIPP, producers have the option of three-, four- or five-year CRP contracts to establish perennial cover on less productive cropland in exchange for payments. Acres that have recently expired from CRP are not eligible for enrollment. Producers will have the option to harvest, hay and graze enrolled acres during certain times of year.

Landowners interested in applying should call, not visit, their county’s FSA office. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA service centers are taking precautions by conducting business by phone or online only until further notice. 

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