Members of Congress don’t expect any action on the 2018 Farm Bill until early next year. However, what may be contained in the bill is being discussed today. An area of great interest to the conservation community is expansion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP temporarily idles cropland by paying landowners to place it into perennial vegetation. The practice improves water and air quality and increases wildlife habitat. There is very high demand from landowners across the country for increasing the number of acres under the program. But despite that demand, members of Congress say they are struggling to find ways to fund raising the number of acres included in the program.
The Conservation Reserve Program was capped at 24 million aces nationwide (which the League opposed) in the last Farm Bill. Although CRP is the largest and most expensive conservation program based on a per-acre cost, it has proven very effective on marginal and highly erodible land. More than 14 million additional acres currently enrolled in the program have contracts set to expire between 2018 and 2022. Without raising the cap on CRP enrollment, many of those acres would likely return to cropland. There are discussions among some members of Congress about raising the CRP cap in the next Farm Bill. Let your congressional delegation know you support increasing the number of acres allowed in the Conservation Reserve Program.