DES MOINES – Last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the 49th general signup for the popular Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
Dating in its modern form from the 1985 Farm Bill, the CRP encourages landowners to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as cultivated or native bunchgrasses and grasslands, wildlife and pollinators food and shelter plantings, windbreak and shade trees, filter and buffer strips or grassed waterways and riparian buffers.
More than 800 contracts encompassing nearly 22,000 acres of general CRP will expire in Iowa this fall, giving landowners their first opportunity since June 2013 to bid land back into the general CRP.
Landowners have until Feb. 26 to make an offer.
“Whether the goal is to bring back pheasants, plant woodland for long-term profit or improve water quality, the general Conservation Reserve Program is great for landowners and farmers who want to protect environmentally sensitive land,” said Chuck Gipp, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The sign-up is expected to be very competitive, according to Todd Bogenschutz, DNR upland game biologist. He said Iowa landowners will have to make the best possible offers in order to be accepted.
Bogenschutz said landowners should visit with one of the DNR’s private lands staff to explore potential options.
Iowa has about 1.5 million acres in the general and continuous sign-up CRP, Bogenschutz said. The federal cost-share and rental payment program falls under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency. Technical assistance for CRP is provided by the USDA Forest Service and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Landowners seeking technical help from a DNR wildlife biologist or forester or wanting to learn more about options available with the CRP can visit the DNR’s CRP website. The website of the local USDA office also offers information, and Iowa Pheasants Forever has staff available to assist Iowa landowners with the CRP.