Delta Waterfowl Cheers Gains in New Conservation Reserve Program Sign-Up

From Delta Waterfowl:

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — Enhancements made last spring to incentives for the Conservation Reserve Program sign-up — as advocated for by Delta Waterfowl and its conservation partners  — significantly increased 2021 CRP enrollment, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

In 2021, nearly 1.9 million acres were accepted for general CRP sign-up, and to date USDA’s Farm Service Agency has accepted more than 897,000 acres through enrollment in “Continuous CRP Signup.” It’s estimated the year will end with more than 3 million new acres enrolled.

“The impact of CRP lands on duck production in the prairie pothole region can’t be overstated,” said John Devney, senior vice president of policy for Delta Waterfowl. “It’s especially evident when we hit dry periods like we are experiencing now. Ample CRP acreage is critical to duck nesting success, especially when you consider that 90 percent of the ducks hatched in the U.S. portions of the PPR come from private lands.”

Boosting Signups

Aiming to increase acreage offered for enrollment this year, conservation organizations ­— including Delta — successfully advocated for the adjustment of soil rental rates, increase of payments for “Practice Incentives” from 20 to 50 percent, increase of payments for water quality practices, establishment of a minimum CRP grassland rental rate and the move of State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement practices to Continuous CRP signup. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota also championed the Soil Health and Income Protection Program, which created a new tool within CRP to add grassland cover in the U.S. prairie pothole region using convenient, short-term contracts.

Largely because of these changes, enrollment in Continuous CRP during 2021 more than doubled enrollment from 2020 and tripled enrollment from 2018 and 2019. Additionally, FSA extended the deadline for 2021 general CRP enrollment to late July, allowing more time for landowners to consider the improvements and incentives, resulting in 1.9 million acres offered and accepted.

Work to Be Done

“Despite Congress raising the enrollment target in the 2018 Farm Bill, there have been decreases in enrollment for the past two years. The changes we made this spring have put us on the path to reverse this trend,” FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said. “Even with the improved direction, USDA will still be about 4 million acres below the enrollment target. The CRP benefits for producers, sportsmen, wildlife, conservation and climate are numerous and well documented. We cannot afford to let them to be left on the table.”

The USDA estimates the 4 million-acre shortfall from its target enrollment would mean:

  • 359,000 fewer acres of annual forage under CRP grasslands 
  • A loss of 1.5 million acres of quality wildlife and pollinator habitat
  • A loss of more than 4 million upland game and other grassland birds
  • About 90 million pounds of additional nitrogen entering waterways
  • More than 30 million tons of soil eroded, leading to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers

 “All of these impacts would significantly impact waterfowl production in both the short-term and in the long run,” Devney said. “While Delta cheers the gains made due to the enhancements made last spring, we recognize there’s still a ton of work to be done. We must push to optimize sign-ups in all CRP programs all the way up to the cap. Back in the days of peak enrollment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that CRP annually added about 2.2 million ducks to the fall flight. That’s the direction The Duck Hunters Organization wants to see CRP go once again.”

The 2018 Farm Bill capped the total number of acres that may be controlled in CRP at 25 million for 2021 and expanding to 27 million by 2023.

For more information, contact John Devney at (701) 471-4235 or jdevney@deltawaterfowl.org.

Delta Waterfowl Foundation is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and secure the future of duck hunting in North America. Visit deltawaterfowl.org.

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