USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program application deadline nears

RDN REPORTS
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Conservation Reserve Program on the Missouri landscape serves an essential role in the protection and enhancement of Missouri’s water quality, soil quality and wildlife habitat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has set a July 23 deadline for producers and landowners to apply for General Conservative Reserve Program.   

This year, U.S. Department of Agriculture updated both General and Continuous Conservative Reserve Program options to provide greater incentives for producers and increase its conservation benefits, including reducing the impacts of climate change.

The Conservative Reserve Program is a federally-funded voluntary program that contracts with agricultural producers so that environmentally sensitive agricultural land is not farmed, but instead devoted to conservation benefits. 

Program participants establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses, forbs, or trees to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat. 

In return, the Farm Services Agency provides participants with annual rental payments and cost-share assistance for practice establishment. 

Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years. 

The Conservation Reserve Program will begin accepting contracts for the current enrollment period Oct. 1. 

In addition to annual rental payments, the Farm Service Agency is offering new or improved incentives this year:

• New one-time 10% “inflationary” adjustment for annual payment rates for both General and Continuous Conservation Reserve Program.

• NewClimate-Smart Practice Incentive for Conservation Reserve Program general and continuous signups that aims to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate-Smart Practice Incentive is annual, and the amount (3%, 5%, or 10%) is based on the benefits of each practice type.

• Increased payments for Practice Incentives from 20% to 50%. This incentive for Continuous Conservation Reserve Program practices is based on the cost of establishment and is in addition to cost share payments.

• Increased payments for water quality practices. Rates are increasing from 10% to 20% for certain water quality benefiting practices available through the Conservation Reserve Program continuous signup, such as grassed waterways, riparian buffers and filter strips.

• All newly enrolled State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement Continuous Conservative Reserve Program practices are eligible for sign-up Incentive payments, 50% Practice Incentive payments and inflationary payment rate adjustments. Select State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement practices will also be eligible for the 20% water quality rental rate incentive.

The Conservation Reserve Program has improved soil, water, air quality, wildlife habitat and environmentally sensitive areas like wetlands and bottomland forests for over 35 years. 

The program’s practices benefit bees and other pollinators and help improve the habitat for ducks, pheasants, turkey, bobwhite quail, prairie chickens, grasshopper sparrows and many other grassland birds in Missouri.  

To enroll in the Conservative Reserve Program general signup, producers and landowners should contact their local USDA Service Center by the July 23 deadline.  

While USDA offices may have limited visitors because of the pandemic, Service Center staff continue to work with agricultural producers via phone, email and other digital tools.

Contact information can be found at farmers.gov/service-locator.

Contact your local Private Land Conservationist at https://mdc.mo.gov/contact-engage/local-mdc-contacts or your local Quail Forever Biologist at https://missouripfqf.org/contact for technical information on developing wildlife habitat on Conservation Reserve Program.