The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has been in existence since 1986 and is the most popular conservation program offered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The CRP is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Agricultural land entered in CRP is removed from crop production and converted to grass and/or tree cover in exchange for annual payments. Contract lengths range from 10-30 years depending on which CRP option is used.
The intent of CRP is to improve wildlife habitat, water quality and soil quality and help maintain a productive agricultural community and economy.
The primary qualification for CRP enrollment is crop history. At this time, the crop history base period is 2002-2007 (This will change when the new Farm Bill is signed). Fields must have been planted to an annual crop (corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, barley, etc.) at least four out of six years during that time. In addition there is a 12 month ownership requirement and participants will need to establish USDA program eligibility.
Enrollment in CRP is contractual. CRP land must be changed according to terms of the contract. Land removed from CRP prior to the end of the contract period is subject to payback of all funds plus interest and liquidated damages.
Annual payments for land enrolled in CRP are based on soil type. Lorain County rates range from $48-$98 per acre with most being in the $83-$98 range. Cost share for establishing grass or planting trees is at a 50% level of state average cost. Cost share payments are received after the work is completed and certified. Annual payments are received after October 1.
Mowing of CRP grassland areas is NOT required and is generally discouraged. Mowing can be done once annually to maintain the cover. Noxious weeds (Canadian Thistle etc.) need to be spot mowed before going to seed. No crop production, haying or grazing is permitted on land enrolled in CRP.
Currently there are over 250 contracts in Lorain County with an average of 2,500 acres enrolled.
The Conservation Reserve Program is broken into three primary components: