General Conservation Reserve Program Signup Opens Today

Signup for the 2022 General Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) opens today, Jan. 31, and will run to March 11, 2022, according to a recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Grassland CRP signup will run from April 4 to May 13, 2022. The Continuous CRP Signup remains ongoing.

In 2021, USDA announced a slew of updates to CRP and even extended the deadline for enrollment as farmers and landowners evaluated their options. Some of those updates included:

  • A new Climate-Smart Practice Incentive to incentivize practices that sequester carbon and reduce emissions.
  • An additional one-time, 10 percent “inflationary” adjustment for the life of the contract for General and Continuous CRP.
  • An increased Water Quality Incentive from 10 to 20 percent for water quality benefiting practices under Continuous CRP.
  • Establishing a CRP Grassland minimum rental rate of $15.

You can read the full list of 2021 updates here.

According to data compiled by Farmdocdaily at the University of Illinois, overall CRP enrollment increased  by 1.5 million acres to 22.3 million acres as of October 2021. However, General CRP enrollment declined by more than one million acres. One reason for the decline may be an increase in crop prices. Continuous CRP enrollment increased slightly by 400,000 acres and Grassland CRP enrollment increased by 2.2 million acres.

Enrollment in the CP42 program, the program designated for pollinator habitat, saw a slight decline as well. As of October 2021 (the most recent data available on USDA’s website), there were 536,403 acres enrolled in CP42. In October 2020, total enrollment was 542,606.

Farmers and producers interested in enrolling in CRP in 2022 should contact the FSA office at their local USDA Service Center. Farmers for Monarchs has also provided relevant information below about CRP and specifically CP42, the program designated for pollinator habitat.

Highlights for Pollinators in CRP

Pollinator Habitat (CP42) can be offered in General or Continuous Signup. Under General CRP there is no maximum acreage for this practice making it a great option for landowners interested in establishing whole or partial fields to pollinator habitat. Highly sensitive lands, like field borders or areas near streams and ponds, may be best offered under Continuous CRP. For more information, see the USDA’s fact sheet on pollinator habitat planting. In General CRP or in Continuous CRP, the producer has the option to supplement seed mixture in order to add species to improve the planting for pollinators. See your USDA Service Center for specific information on how to add diversity to your seed mixture. A good goal for a pollinator planting is 40+ species. Please note that more species doesn’t have to mean more expensive.

General CRP Cheat Sheet

General CRP signups are competitive and for landowners to earn the best chance of being accepted they’ll need to maximize their Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) score. Selecting a practice made up of diverse native species like Pollinator Habitat (CP42), SAFE Projects (CP38), Rare and Declining Habitat (CP25), and Wildlife Habitat (CP4D) will allow landowners to maximize EBI scores while providing quality pollinator habitat. To further boost the odds of their offer being accepted, landowners should consider adding pollinator habitat plots to their planting. These plots can add EBI points to any practice offered during the general signup, not just those traditionally thought of as wildlife beneficial. For more on the EBI and what factors you can influence, see the information below.

General CRP Practices

The butterfly icon denotes best potential to benefit pollinators and monarchs.
*CP 42 practice is an eligible practice for both general and continuous offers.

General CRP Environmental Benefits Index (EBI)- Ranking Eligible CRP Offers

Note, the USDA fact sheet on EBI scores, can be found at this link.

Below please find information on ranking and scoring that will increase farmers’ chances of enrollment.

  • FSA will rank offers according to the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI).
  • The EBI ensures that the most environmentally sensitive acres are selected relative to cost and all offers are considered fairly.
  • All offers are ranked nationally.
  • The six EBI factors include:
    • N1 – Wildlife Habitat Benefits
    • N2 – Water Quality Benefits
    • N3 – Erosion Reduction Benefits
    • N4 – Enduring Benefits
    • N5 – Air Quality Benefits
    • N6 – Cost
  • What EBI factors can you influence?
    • N1 – Wildlife Benefits: Wildlife habitat cover selection is the most critical factor impacting wildlife benefits. Native mixes of diverse species generally receive the highest point scores. Points are awarded for cover practices and habitat improvements.
  • Three Subfactors (Note N1= N1a+N1b+N1c=100 points)
    • N1a – Wildlife Cover (10 to 50 points) – Optimum covers significantly increase score
    • N1b – Wildlife Enhancement (0,5,20 Points) – See additional info below
    • N1c – Wildlife Priority Zones (0 to 30 points) – Based on location so little control at farm level
  • N4 – Enduring Benefits (little to no impact on pollinators)
  • N6 – Cost (little to no impact on pollinators)

Additional info on N1b- Wildlife Enhancement of Cover

Wildlife Food Plots: 5 points (This has been available in previous signups)

  • Annual or permanent food plots
  • Up to 10 percent of the field not to exceed 5 acres per field (minimum of ¼ acre)

Pollinator Habitat: 20 points (This has been available in previous signups)

  • Minimum of 1 acre or 10 percent of acreage offered. At least 0.5 acres in size
  • 20-40 wildflower species flowering throughout the year

SAFE: 20 points (Available for signup 54 starting in 2020)

  • At least 51 percent of the acreage offered is located in an approved SAFE project area and SAFE practice
  • Acres will be planted to nesting, brood, and winter cover as appropriate
  • Generally, a diverse mix that includes native forb mix.

Opportunities for Pollinators and Monarchs in General CRP

  1. Select a diverse native planting like a CP42, 38, 25, or 50pts CP2, to gain highest EBI score
  2. With any cover type, boost EBI score by selecting Pollinator Habitat or SAFE as a Wildlife Enhancement (N1b)

Continuous CRP Cheat Sheet

Under Continuous CRP signup, environmentally sensitive land can be enrolled in CRP at any time. Offers are automatically accepted provided that eligibility requirements are met and there are acres available in the program. This makes Continuous CRP a better option for some landowners. The practices that will provide the most benefit for pollinators and monarchs are Pollinator Habitat (CP42), Habitat Buffers (CP33), and the new Prairie Strip (CP43).

Under the Continuous CRP signup, Pollinator Habitat (CP42) is limited to 10 acres per tract or 10 percent of offered acres. There is a minimum enrollment of ½ an acre. This makes it a terrific option for creating pollinator habitat on small fields or unprofitable acres but not for larger plantings. Those offers will need to be made under General CRP.

Habitat Buffers (CP33) and Prairie Strips (CP43) both have a requirement that some portion of the offered field stay in agricultural production. This is a great way for producers to target low productivity areas of their operation, or areas of conservation concern (erosion, runoff, etc.), and provide valuable habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

The Continuous CRP Sign-up 53 is ongoing and will remain open until acre goals are reached. Landowners who wish to re-enroll expiring contracts should sign up by August 21st to ensure program deadlines are met.

Continuous CRP – Best Options to Benefit Pollinators

Habitat Buffers (CP33)

  • 30-120 ft habitat buffers planted along the field edges.
  • Enroll crop fields of at least 5 acres.
  • Options to enroll only pivot corners

Pollinator Habitat (CP42)

  • CP42 can be offered in General or Continuous Signup
    • Previously this was only a Continuous practice
  • In General Signup – Pollinator habitat can be used to enhance EBI points or offered as a whole field practice
    • General Signup does not have a maximum acreage limit
  • Under Continuous Signup – CP42 offers are limited to 10 acres per tract or 10% of offered acres.
    • Previously the only cap was 100 acres per Farm
  • You have the option to increase the diversity of their seed mixture in any CRP practice. including more than the minimum recommended species will improve pollinator benefits. A good target is 40 species or more. Please note that more species doesn’t have to mean more expensive.

Prairie Strips (CP43)

  • 30 to 120 ft strips in crop fields that make up no more than 25 percent of total field
  • Prairie Strips establish diverse perennial vegetation oriented linearly within row crop fields.
  • Where Can Prairie Strips be Placed in a Field?
    • Around the edges of a field
    • Through the field
    • In terrace channels
    • Next to waterways
    • Pivot corners