Grassland enrollment adds 2.5 million acres to Conservation Reserve

The USDA said it accepted offers from landowners to enroll 2.5 million acres under the Grassland option of the Conservation Reserve, double the amount accepted last year. Nearly 45 percent of the new land will enter in two priority zones set by USDA, the Greater Yellowstone Elk Migratory Corridor in the West and the Historical Dust Bowl Region, still at risk of wind erosion, in the central and southern Plains.

After years of shrinking, Conservation Reserve to expand this year

The federal program that pays landowners to take environmentally fragile land out of crop production to prevent erosion, protect water quality, and preserve wildlife habitat will expand for the first time this year after losing ground annually since 2007. The USDA said on Monday that it expected a net gain in acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program, which was retooled in April to help slow climate change.

Do conservation subsidies really battle climate change?

The Conservation Reserve Program, which will pay farmers more than $1.8 billion this year to take land out of crop cultivation, has become a linchpin of the Biden administration's climate mitigation program for agriculture. But critics question just how effective the program is in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture, says FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with The American Prospect.  (No paywall)

Land set-aside is part of climate progress, not greenwashing, says Vilsack

The Biden administration is launching a portfolio of projects to reach its goal of net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases on the farm, including a new focus on climate mitigation by the Conservation Reserve Program, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. During an Earth Day teleconference, he rejected the suggestion that carbon sequestration in the CRP was a form of greenwashing. (No paywall)

USDA harnesses Conservation Reserve for climate mitigation

The USDA said it will offer higher rental rates and larger incentive payments to landowners who agree to idle environmentally fragile farmland and introduced a new payment for climate-smart practices to slow climate change. The expansions would boost spending on the Conservation Reserve by $300 million or more annually, said the White House on Wednesday.

Conservation Reserve shrinks to smallest size since 1988

Lawmakers decided as part of the 2018 farm policy law to expand the voluntary Conservation Reserve, which pays landowners an annual rent in exchange for idling fragile farmland for 10 years or longer. Although the expansion was expected to be popular — offering steady income after years of low commodity prices — it hasn't panned out. Enrollment continues a decline that began in 2007.

When USDA stops paying rent, idled land usually goes back into crops

A Reagan-era creation, the Conservation Reserve is the largest U.S. land retirement program, paying landowners an annual rent if they idle environmentally fragile cropland for 10-15 years. But when the contracts expire, most of the land goes back into crop production, says a USDA report that …