Senators’ bipartisan bill would bolster conservation practices and incentivize landowner enrollment 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD), both members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Improvement Act. This bipartisan legislation would bolster CRP by improving access to grazing, providing more enrollment options to producers, and addressing CRP implementation issues following the 2018 farm bill.  

“The Conservation Reserve Program helps equip our farmers with the tools to conserve and improve soil, water quality, and wildlife habitat,” said Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation makes commonsense improvements to CRP that will strengthen conservation practices and landowner enrollment in this vital program.” 

“As a longtime supporter of CRP, this common-sense legislation would help improve the multiple-use benefits of this important conservation program, including wildlife habitat and livestock forage potential,” said Thune. “After receiving valuable feedback from South Dakotans, it is clear that we need to make changes to ensure that CRP continues to be an effective option for producers and landowners. I look forward to making progress on these important issues and proposals as we begin working on the next farm bill.”  

“For four decades, the Conservation Reserve Program has benefitted Minnesota’s wildlife species including pheasants, waterfowl, songbirds, and pollinators such as monarch butterflies,” said Dave Olfelt, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Director.  “Additionally, CRP acres are powerful resources in the state’s ability to adapt to and mitigate climate change by absorbing and storing carbon. With more extreme weather events, natural lands prevent flooding by holding water in the watershed, reduce erosion, and recharge groundwater. Minnesota’s continued commitment to preserving these important lands will be critical to our conservation and resiliency efforts now and in the future.”

“Minnesota is home to over 7 million CRP acres that need more management than just being left idle. Cattle on grass have proven to increase soil health and wildlife habitat. We applaud Senators Klobuchar and Thune in their efforts to increase the needed infrastructure that allows cattle to manage these lands especially during a historic drought when they are in the most need,” said Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association President Grant Breitkreutz.

“As far as private lands conservation programs go, few are more critical to conserving waterfowl habitat than CRP,” said Julia Peebles, manager of agriculture and sustainability for Ducks Unlimited. “We appreciate Senators Thune and Klobuchar for their leadership and aspiration to enhance an already successful program by expanding flexibility for ranchers to utilize grazing activities while conserving wildlife habitat on CRP. Reasonable provisions like this incentivize greater participation in an important conservation program while helping landowners get the most out of their land.”

“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever supports these proposed changes as they will provide more flexibility for farmers, ranchers, and landowners in implementing conservation practices across the country,” said Jim Inglis, director of governmental affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “CRP is an important program that provides tremendous benefits for pheasants, quail, and many other species of wildlife, and we thank Senators Thune and Klobuchar for their efforts to ensure CRP continues to work for producers, wildlife, and rural communities.”

The CRP Improvement Act would:

  • Make CRP grazing a more attractive option by providing cost-share for the establishment of grazing infrastructure – including fencing and water distribution – on all CRP practices and contracts if grazing is included in the approved conservation plan;
  • Increase the CRP annual payment limitation from $50,000, which was established in 1985, to $125,000 to account for inflationary and rising land value pressures and provide landowners with more CRP enrollment options to ensure resources are appropriately conserved;
  • Reinstate mid-contract management cost-share payments for activities that are not related to haying or grazing; and
  • Permanently establish the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement practice under Continuous CRP. 

Klobuchar and Thune have long worked together to strengthen CRP for farmers and landowners. Last August, they called on the Department of Agriculture to provide additional haying and grazing options for livestock producers. 

Last July, Klobuchar and Thune introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to authorize emergency haying and grazing on CRP land during droughts and other weather-related disaster events. 

In 2019, Klobuchar and Thune led a bipartisan group of colleagues in urging the Department of Agriculture to prioritize enrollment and implementation of the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative within the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).