AMES, Iowa – New additions to the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) were announced in December 2016 by former United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
“The CRP program has benefits for both landowners and the environment and is one of the most important initiatives for wildlife habitat on privately owned land in Iowa,” said Adam Janke, assistant professor and extension wildlife specialist with Iowa State University.
These new initiatives are known as Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR), designed to combat water quality challenges in places like the Mississippi River and Great Lakes Basin, and State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), which sets aside 300,000 acres for wetland restoration and 100,000 acres for pollinator habitat across the country.
Filter strip (CP21) and riparian buffer (CP22) practices that are already enrolled in CRP or in areas with a need to reduce nitrate loading to surface water from subsurface drain tile outlets are being targeted through CLEAR. Iowa State University research has shown the potential positive water quality impacts of bioreactors and saturated buffers in Iowa and this new program will help landowners install these practices on their properties.
Iowa is slated to enroll 115,000 new acres in SAFE programs that target high-profile wildlife habitat needs. The goal for 2017 additions are 40,000 acres of habitat for the northern bobwhite quail and an additional 75,000 acres in grassland and wetland habitat targeting ring-necked pheasants, meadowlarks, pollinators and other grassland-dependent wildlife.
“This project is a creative approach to creating wildlife habitat within the Conservation Reserve Program,” Janke said. “It addresses an important need in our state as the northern bobwhite quail has been a declining farmland bird for several years. The program is unique in that it focuses on producing the habitat that bobwhites need to raise their young and find food throughout the winter.”
Additionally, the USDA will now offer an early termination opportunity for certain CRP contracts to socially disadvantaged or beginning farmer or military veterans, including family members. Normally there is a financial penalty for terminating a CRP contract early.
Additional details about CRP acres and the additional acres of land that can be enrolled can be found in the article “UDSA announces CRP changes to help improve water quality, wildlife habitat, and land transfers to beginning farmers.” The article was written by Janke and Wendong Zhang, assistant professor and extension economist with Iowa State, and can be found in the March issue of Ag Decision Maker.
Options for landowners with expiring CRP acres is also covered in the article.