WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for agricultural producers and landowners to sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The deadline to apply is July 23, 2021. Additionally, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications for CRP Grasslands from July 12 to August 20, 2021.

This year, USDA updated both sign-up options to provide additional incentives for producers and increase the programs’ conservation benefits, including reducing the impacts of climate change. Both sign-ups are competitive and will provide annual rental payments for lands devoted to conservation purposes.

“The coronavirus pandemic has placed incredible stress on our rural communities, and farmers throughout Minnesota and across the country deserve our support. I worked to increase the amount of land covered by the Conservation Reserve Program in the 2018 Farm Bill because of the program’s many benefits for soil health, wildlife habitat, and water quality. I encourage interested producers to sign up,” said Senator Klobuchar.

“Minnesota farmers, ranchers and other land owners are environmental stewards who understand best that how they treat their land impacts water quality, soil health and wildlife habitat,” said Senator Smith. “The CRP general and grassland programs are both invaluable opportunities to boost conservation efforts that protect the environment and sustain land. I encourage Minnesota producers to sign up ahead of this summer’s upcoming deadlines."

The 2018 Farm Bill included several of Klobuchar’s priorities, including provisions to increase acreage in the CRP to 27 million acres and further expand and incentivize land transitions to beginning farmers, based on Klobuchar and Senator John Thune’s (R-SD) Conservation Program Improvement Act.

Smith is an advocate for a strong CRP. In 2020 Smith urged the USDA to increase incentive payments to stop the enrollment decline in the CRP. The 2018 Farm Bill also includes conservation efforts led by Smith, including a provision from her SOIL Stewardship Act to reduce carbon emissions to prevent soil erosion, improve water quality and reform the Conservation Stewardship Program. It also includes Smith’s amendment streamlining the transition between two working lands conservation programs—the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and CSP.

Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. The nation’s economy and environment benefit from the efforts of the farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP. CRP’s general sign-up is held annually. The competitive general sign-up includes increased opportunities for enrollment of wildlife habitat through the State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative.

Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. It was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing many conservation and economic benefits.

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