CRP/Cost Sharing ProgramsField reportsGetting StartedMonarchs

A Farmer’s Perspective on the Conservation Reserve Program

Where are the monarchs now?

The monarchs are now overwintering in forests at over 10,000 feet in Central Mexico. They will begin their journey back north at the end of February. Follow their migration at Journey North.

The start of a new year brings another opportunity for farmers to enroll land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and install monarch and pollinator habitat on their farms. Farmers enrolled in CRP agree to voluntarily manage less productive land by converting to perennial habitat that will improve environmental health and quality in exchange for a yearly rental payment. While we are awaiting the announcement from the Farm Service Agency about the enrollment period for General CRP this year, signup for Continuous CRP is ongoing. We’ll share more information about General CRP signup when it is available.

We spoke to Chris Benes, a corn and soybean farmer in Nebraska, whose family has enrolled land in CRP since the mid-1980s. Benes shares his insight about enrolling land in CRP, how he chooses what land to enroll, and the benefits that come from installing pollinator habitat on his farm.

“I basically have CRP coming in and out every year,” said Benes.

You can watch the full eight-minute interview in the video above or watch clips from the interview below to hear Benes’ thoughts on specific CRP-related topics like the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI), habitat management, and CRP benefits.

Environmental Benefits Index

The Farm Service Agency will rank offers submitted by landowners for CRP general enrollment period according to the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI). The agency collects data for each index factor based on the relative environmental benefits for the land offered. Index rankings are unique for each tract of land offered for CRP.

“Pollinators will get me more points to get ground in the CRP program,” said Benes referencing CRP 42, the practice code for installing pollinator habitat. “I want the ground in CRP and I’m choosing pollinators to give me my best chance to get that ground in CRP.” Planting pollinator habitat increases your EBI score. 

Farm Service Agency assigns each offer a score based on the offer’s relative environmental factors. Each offer competes with all other offers. Farm Service Agency determines the acceptability of the offer based on the ranking results. All offers are ranked nationally. 

Selecting a practice made up of diverse native species like pollinator habitat (CP42), State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement Projects (CP38), Rare and Declining Habitat (CP25), and Wildlife Habitat (CP4D) allows landowners to maximize EBI scores.


Farmers for Monarchs provides detailed information about habitat establishment and management, which Benes explains is critical for CRP. We’ve also highlighted how pollinator habitat can be installed to boost the efficiency of marginal cropland.

“The way I use the CRP program has changed a lot,” said Benes. “I’m using it now more probably for what it was designed for…the poor spots and highly erodible spots.”

Benes is able to make the determination as to what land he should enroll in CRP by using high precision tools now commonly used in agriculture. GPS farming and mapping provides precision data on ground quality and farm yields. This allows farmers to analyze the profitability of specific land areas. Benes also stresses that land must be properly maintained regardless of whether it is enrolled in CRP or in production. 

“It takes management. I mean, a lot of people think CRP is where the government is paying somebody for doing nothing and in reality, they’re paying you for letting the land sit idle, that is true, but it takes management,” said Benes.


Enrolling land in CRP can make land more profitable, reduce erosion, increase pollinator species and wildlife, and provide a beautiful landscape. 

For rural areas “that do have a lot of CRP, you’ll see a lot more wildlife, you’ll see a lot more [beneficial] bug diversity, compared to areas that are fence line to fence line crop,” said Benes “you don’t see the explosion of harmful insects…nearly as often. There’s so much more of a wide and varied group of bugs that it’s hard for just one bug [species] to come in and massively take over and cause crop damage.”

Revisit this post to learn more about the benefits planting pollinator forage in prairie strips provided farmers. 

Getting Started

It may be difficult to know where to start to participate in cost-sharing programs like the Conservation Reserve Program. If you want to know more, call the Pollinator Habitat Help Desk at (337) 422-4828 to learn more about how to begin. You can also ask about a variety of topics like seed mixes and site preparation and management.   

We’ll share more information about General CRP signup when it is available.