CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM
RECORD-BREAKING ENROLLMENT IN 2023
Grassland CRP offers topped 4.6 million acres
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting offers for nearly 2.7 million acres from agricultural producers and private landowners through this year’s Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup, which received a record setting sign-up of 4.6 million acres in offers. This working lands program allows producers and landowners to continue grazing and haying practices while protecting grasslands and further the CRP’s impacts.
“This year’s Grassland CRP signup demonstrates the continued popularity, success and value of investments in voluntary, producer-led, working lands conservation programs,” said Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “Grassland CRP clearly demonstrates that conservation priorities and agricultural productivity not only have the capacity to coexist but also complement and enhance one another. Through all our working land conservation programs, farmers and ranchers play a critical role in helping secure the future of both our food production and our natural resources.”
USDA had to accept fewer acres and a lower percentage of offers than in 2022 because the program has reached its acreage cap, Ducheneaux added. “With a low number of acres expiring in 2024 and 2025, getting any closer to the statutory cap of 27 million acres would hinder USDA’s ability to conduct meaningful future signups or to implement existing and new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Partnership (CREP) agreements in 2024.”
What is the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program?
Grassland CRP is a federally funded working lands program managed by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). Under the 2018 Farm Bill, several changes were made to the program that can benefit western landowners, ranchers and producers, including expanded eligibility for land that supports wildlife migration and/or conservation of at-risk and Endangered Species Act listed species.
How does the program work?
In exchange for entering into a contract with the FSA for either 10 or 15 years, which includes the development of a conservation plan with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), landowners receive annual payments and cost-share assistance. This payment rate varies by county, but will start at a minimum of $13 per acre.
An important distinction between Grassland CRP and the general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is that under Grassland CRP landowners are still allowed to graze, hay and produce seed on their land. Learn more about ranking factors and eligibility under the program here.
How to apply
Interested and willing landowners are encouraged to contact their County FSA office to begin an application to the program. It is a good idea to talk to your local FSA office about your desires and plans early, as staff are stretched thin as deadlines near. Deadlines for CRP applications are typically in May.
FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff will assist in developing the application and ranking factors. The application will then be evaluated against other applications. If selected, the landowner will work with NRCS and FSA staff to develop and implement a conservation plan and a 10 year or 15 year agreement with the FSA and NRCS.
Contact your County FSA office
Find your County Office contact info on this map by clicking on your state: https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app
Watch this Informational Webinar
Grassland CRP & the Wyoming-USDA Big Game Pilot Partnership
What Landowners Need to Know
Consider these things before enrolling:
- Land with greater than 5% tree canopy is not eligible.
- There is no limit to acreage that can be offered, but participants cannot receive more than $50,000 annually. At the minimum rate of $13/acre, this creates a functional acreage cap of 3846 acres.
- Enrolled acres must be maintained according to an NRCS conservation plan and protected from crop conversion and development.
- Participants must control noxious weeds.
- Land enrolled in EQIP is eligible for enrollment in Grassland CRP.
Important changes to note
- $13 minimum payment rate! 2023 rental rates can be accessed here.
- Grassland priority zones have been updated. Being located in one conveys an additional $5 per acre payment and increases ranking priority
Wyoming landowners can now layer Grassland CRP with farm bill conservation cost-share assistance
A partnership between the state of Wyoming and USDA will pilot "habitat leases" on private working lands by making adjustments to the terms of Grassland CRP and other farm bill conservation programs. Landowners in big game migration corridors in Wyoming can now enroll in Grassland CRP and remain eligible for cost-share programs like EQIP. WLA is happy to help landowners navigate these changes. A successful pilot will likely mean these opportunities expand to other states! Contact us.
Need help? WLA is here for you.
Contact our Wyoming resource coordinator, Shaleas Harrison, today.
WLA is working with the USDA and Congress to address these issues and ensure that conservation programs work for landowners, not the other way around. The USDA is listening. Join WLA to ensure your voice is heard.