USDA Opens Conservation Program

For the first time in four years, the USDA is holding open enrollment for land conservation programs. Dating back to the 1950s, the Conservation Reserve Program takes severely erodible land out of farm production and put aside for conservation and renewal. Instead of planting row crops, farmers are offered subsidies to plant wildflowers, grasses, and other plants that restore erodible soil and reduce water loss. The Farm Service Agency offers participating farmers rent payments and cost-sharing assistance. Conservation contracts typically last 10-15 years.

Conservation program managers base their land selection on a number of factors. Eligible land parcels must have been sown with crops sometime during four of the last six years. In addition, land located near watersheds that provide drinking water are preferred (more information on eligibility can be found at the FSA’s website).

Farmers can also increase their eligibility by planting appropriate crops and suggested seed mixes, such as a new pollinator selection that provides food for bees. Other wildlife friendly seed mixes can also increase eligibility.

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