The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making available $12 million for use in making payments to forest landowners with land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in exchange for their implementing healthy forest management practices. Existing CRP participants can now sign up for the Forest Management Incentive (FMI), which provides financial incentives to landowners with land in CRP to encourage proper tree thinning and other practices.
“We are offering CRP landowners an opportunity to use forestry practices for a more targeted approach to improve forest health and wildlife habitat on their land,” said Richard Fordyce, administrator for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “The Forest Management Incentive enables landowners to maximize the conservation outcomes on their land, such as supporting wildlife, conserving soil and improving water quality.”
Right now, less than 10% of land currently enrolled in CRP is dedicated to forestland. But, these nearly 2 million acres of CRP forestland, if properly managed, can have enormous benefits for natural resources by reducing soil erosion, protecting water quality, increasing water quantity, and diversifying local farm operations and rural economies.
Only landowners and agricultural producers with active CRP contracts involving forest cover can enroll. However, this does not include active CRP contracts that expire within two years. Existing CRP participants interested in tree thinning and prescribed burning must comply with the standards and specifications established in their CRP contract.
CRP participants will receive the incentive payment once tree thinning and/or other authorized forest management practices are completed.
The incentive payment is the lower of:
· The actual cost of completing the practice; or
· 75% of the payment rate offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) if the practice is offered through NRCS conservation programs.
More about CRP
Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. It was originally intended primarily to control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing many conservation and economic benefits. The program marks its 35-year anniversary this month. Program successes include:
· Preventing more than 9 billion tons of soil from eroding, which is enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks.
· Reducing nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to annually tilled cropland by 95% and 85%, respectively.
· Sequestering an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking 9 million cars off the road.
· Creating more than 3 million acres of restored wetlands while protecting more than 175,000 stream miles with riparian forest and grass buffers, which is enough to go around the world seven times.
· Benefiting bees and other pollinators and increasing populations of ducks, pheasants, turkey, bobwhite quail, prairie chickens, grasshopper sparrows and many other birds.
CRP signup began Jan. 19, 2021. FSA will announce deadline later this year. Interested producers should contact their local FSA county office.
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