GRAY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – The USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program marked its 35th anniversary in December and now it’s time for many landowners to decide if they’ll enroll in the program or renew their contracts.

The Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, is a nationwide voluntary project aimed at taking sensitive farmland out of crop production and planting it to native vegetation.

“This was a way for those producers to still be able to earn a payment on that land and be able to put it into cover,” said Chief Program Specialist for the Conservation Price Support Division at the Kansas Farm Service Agency.

CRP is one of the nation’s largest private land conservation programs.

The latest USDA summary reports nearly 18,000 farms, 30,000 farmers, and 1.8 million acres are under contract in Kansas. This year, close to 366,000 acres are set to expire. 

“General CRP signup is normally more acreage in western Kansas, bigger fields,” she said.

For 10 to 15 years, landowners receive a yearly acreage payment but are not allowed to farm or graze the land under most circumstances.

“Benefits for producers are, an opportunity to earn a payment on CRP and not have to be out there cropping it, continually cropping it” she said.

The long-term hope is that the program will reestablish land cover, improve water quality, prevent erosion, and increase wildlife.

“We also have producers that are just very oriented to wanting to do something productive with their land,” she said.

The signup dates for the program opened Monday, January 4, and will run through Friday, February 12, 2021.