Continuous Conservation Reserve Programs
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
The CRP has been widely accepted and adopted among landowners and producers in Clay County throughout its 31 year history. In the minds of many, CRP is a program where whole crop fields are seeded to native grasses and the producer receives an annual incentive payment. The program began with the Food Security Act of 1985 where the primary aim was to address the nationwide problem of overproduction and poor commodity prices by reducing cropland acres by seeding them to environmentally beneficial perennial vegetation.
The current goals of the CRP are five-fold: reduce soil erosion on highly erodible land, protect ground and surface water by reducing runoff and sedimentation, increase benefits for wildlife, protect the nation’s long-term capacity to provide food and fiber, and provide income support to producers by curbing the production of surplus commodities. To date, the CRP has arguably been the most successful conservation program in the U.S. in terms of improving water quality, soil quality, and benefiting wildlife populations.
There are more programs than most realize under the umbrella of the CRP available and applicable to Clay County landowners and operators.
Currently, there are “continuous sign-up” programs in effect and available for enrollment to help producers and landowners economically achieve their land management goals. Among these are programs that may be well worth your consideration:
Field Windbreak Program
There is the Field Windbreak Program that is available to those who desire to plant trees around crop fields or pastures to protect against wind erosion or to enhance the wildlife habitat on the farm.
The Farmstead Windbreak is a tree planting program that may be placed around livestock facilities and farm yards to provide wind protection, reduce energy costs, and improve the wildlife habitat on the designated area.
Grassed Waterways are shaped in locations where there is concentrated runoff from a crop field to help direct and slow the flow away from the site to prevent erosion and flooding.
Contour Grass Strips
The Contour Grass Strips are native grass plantings that may be placed on any crop field that has a slope to help slow and filter the runoff from the field. It may be placed on terraces or between them or on fields that have a reasonable slope and no terraces. The primary objective of the contour grass strips is to reduce erosion and improve water quality.
There are Filter Strips that may include acreage along a ravine, creek, or river that are planted to native grasses that help slow and filter runoff, stabilize stream banks, and make use of less desirable crop acres.
Riparian Forest Buffer
The Riparian Forest Buffer is very similar to the Filter Strip except that it includes trees and shrubs to the native grass to further aid in stream bank stabilization and infiltration. It also allows the producer to plant desirable trees on the farm.
The Field Border is another vegetative buffer that may be placed on any or all sides of an eligible crop field that has a primary goal of improving wildlife habitat and taking less desirable crop acres out of production.
State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) Program
Finally, the SAFE Program is similar to the Field Border in its aim to enhance wildlife but may be a larger acreage placed in any location within a crop field. It is eligible for whole-field enrollment for fields of up to ten acres in size or 30% of the cropped field.
Programs Cost Share & Financial Return Information
Each of these programs provide the landowner or operator with cost share money for installation and annual financial returns on a per acre basis. The annual payment amount for these 10- to 15-year CRP contracts typically ranges from $50 to about $120 per acre depending on soil quality, location, and program type.
Not limited to its original purpose made back in 1985 of stabilizing the Agricultural economy, CRP can achieve conservation goals that nearly any agricultural landowner may have today. More than just a whole-field signup, it now encompasses grass buffers, tree plantings, waterways, and wetlands to meet goals for nearly every farm and circumstance from a conservation standpoint.
Needing to stabilize your bottom line, improve the soil or water conservation on your farm, or enhance wildlife habitats? Try CRP. It can work for you! Contact the Clay County Conservation District at 785-630-3514 for more information.