LINCOLN — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has accepted offers for more than 2.5 million acres from agricultural producers and private landowners for enrollment through this year’s Grassland Conservation Reserve Program signup, the agency said in a press release. This is double last year’s enrollment and brings the total acres enrolled across all CRP signups in 2021 to more than 5.3 million acres, surpassing USDA’s 4-million-acre goal. Producers and landowners submitted offers for nearly 4 million acres in Grassland CRP, the highest in the signup’s history.
“We were pleased to see this level of interest from conservation-minded producers here in Nebraska and across the country,” said Tim Divis, acting state executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Nebraska. “This is a powerful program, and we want to continue to grow interest in Grassland CRP, as well as other CRP signups, in the coming years.”
Nebraska producers enrolled 350,981 acres through this year’s Grassland CRP signup. Through Grassland CRP, producers and landowners can conserve grasslands, rangelands and pastures, while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices, such as haying, mowing or harvesting seed from the enrolled land, pursuant to approved conservation plans designed to promote thoughtful use while creating and maintaining vital habitat.
Updates to grassland CRP
FSA rolled out a number of updates to its CRP signups earlier this year. This included setting a minimum payment rate for Grassland CRP as well as establishing new national priority zones.
Producers enrolled 1.1 million acres in the two priority zones, which include the Greater Yellowstone Elk Migratory Corridor, which is focused on wildlife and includes counties in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and the Historical Dust Bowl Region, which still is at great risk of high wind erosion and includes counties in Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.
Download the “What’s New” fact sheet to learn more about CRP updates.
Climate change mitigation
Additionally, lands enrolled in CRP — including grasslands — play an important role in addressing climate change. For example, this enrollment of more than 2.5 million acres of grazing land into Grassland CRP will mitigate an additional estimated 22,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
By the numbers
Nebraska ranked third in acres enrolled, behind only Colorado and South Dakota. Montana and New Mexico round out the top five enrollment states.
In addition to the more than 2.5 million acres enrolled in Grassland CRP, almost 1.9 million acres in offers were accepted nationally through the General CRP signup and 902,000 acres were accepted so far through the Continuous Signup. In Nebraska, 77,682 acres were accepted during the General CRP signup this year. Additional enrollment information on the General and Continuous signups is available in the Aug. 23, 2021 news release.
The 2018 Farm Bill established a nationwide acreage limit for CRP, with the total number of acres that may be enrolled capped at 25 million acres in fiscal year 2021 and growing to 27 million by FY 2023. Currently, 20.6 million acres are enrolled. With more than 5.3 million acres accepted for enrollment, the USDA will start 2022 off with about 22.9 million acres, leaving room for further enrollment and program expansion up to the FY 2022 cap of 25.5 million.