Conservation Reserve Program

Vital for habitat conservation on private lands, will the 2012 Farm Bill zero out the CRP?

Conservation Reserve Program

Key Facts:

  • The Conservation Reserve Program has been the nation's single best tool for creating habitat for pheasants, quail and other wildlife since it was created in 1985.
  • The 2008 Farm Bill created a 32-million-acre cap on the program, of which there are currently 38 different conservation practices (CP).

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), as we know it today, was first enacted in the Farm Bill of 1985. Hunters and conservationists have been battling to keep the program, which is one of the most important tools in creating pristine habitat on private lands.

Essentially, agricultural landowners are able to enlist their lands in the CRP. The land is set aside from farming to create habitat for wildlife, including pheasants, quail, deer and other game animals important to hunters. In return, landowners receive money from the federal government for the land that’s been set aside.

According to Quail Forever, CRP landowners often plant long-term covers to enhance wildlife habitat, protect the quality of water and control erosion. Other modifications of CRP allow managed haying and grazing if consistent with soil conservation, water quality and wildlife habitat—with a corresponding payment reduction. In addition to providing important habitat, CRP is vital to preventing soil erosion, and improving water quality as CRP lands serve as a filter for nitrogen and phosphorus run-off.

In 2012, the Farm Bill was set to be re-authorized. Although it passed in the Senate, the 2012 Farm Bill was not passed by the U.S. House by the end of 2012. However, an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill was passed in order to provide time to pass a full bill and prevent an increase in milk prices that may have resulted from the expiration of dairy subsidies under the 2008 bill. The future of CRP, however, remains in danger of facing severe financial cuts.