The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up will run Monday, August 2nd through Friday, August 27th. The new general CRP signup will be the first since 2006, and landowner demand is expected to be strong, especially considering the USDA has updated soil rental rates since that last general signup. "CRP continues to be a good option for producers to ensure income on the tough-to-farm and lowest producing acres," said Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever's Vice President of Government Affairs, "This general signup's 4 million-plus acre nationwide allotment is likely to fill up quickly, so it's critical that landowners get into their local USDA service centers immediately to examine CRP options on their land." Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 60 Farm Bill Biologist working at USDA service centers to provide one-on-one assistance to farmers and ranchers during the 2010 general sign-up.
The new CRP general sign-up arrives in time to address the 4.4 million acres of CRP expiring on September 30, 2010. It is also representative of USDA's ongoing action to maximize the wildlife habitat and environmental benefits created via the program's 25-year history. This February at Pheasants Forever's National Pheasant Fest, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced his pledge to keep CRP fully enrolled at the federally mandated (via the 2008 Farm Bill) maximum level of 32 million acres. With an additional 14.2 million acres of CRP slated to expire between 2011 and 2013, the new general sign-up is the critical first step, said Nomsen.
This announcement also resonates with pheasant hunters, as CRP acres provide the top nationwide habitat component in producing pheasants. With consecutive all-time low pheasant harvest in Iowa, hunters have been disappointed in the 1,000's of acres that left the Conservation Reserve Program without a general signup. Iowa's quail populations continue their rapid decline because of habitat losses as well. "This new general signup is critical to prevent us from losing more acres and for preventing continued population decline of the birds many of us love to pursue each autumn," Nomsen added.
Nomsen also points out how understated CRP is to the rural environment and the rural economy. "For 25 years, CRP has been the nation's single most important and successful conservation program, protecting water quality and soils, and creating habitat for a diverse mix of wildlife," he said, "It's a program critically important to the economy of rural America and our nation's outdoor traditions. CRP in the next 25 years will continue all of these benefits, while also producing the habitat critical to pollinators and the $19 billion dollars honey bee pollination means to America's agricultural economy."
Since its formation in 1985, Pheasants Forever has been one of the nation's strongest supporters of CRP. A voluntary program for agricultural landowners, CRP provides annual rental payments and cost-share assistance for the establishment of long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland. The millions of acres of CRP lands in the United States protect topsoil erosion, improve water and air quality and is a major contributor to increasing wildlife populations -- including pheasants and quail -- in many parts of the country.
Contact Cherokee County's Farm Service Agency office at 225-5717.