FORD COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – One of the world’s largest voluntary conservation initiatives is now looking to expand — the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, is a federally-funded project that takes farmland out of production and transitions it to its natural state, helping restore land, water, and wildlife while also fighting climate change.

In Kansas, nearly 18,000 farms and 1.78 million acres are currently in the program. That number may grow as new incentives are on the way for farmers.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to enroll up to four million new CRP acres nationwide. This initiative will add to the nearly 21 million acres already enrolled.

The department is hoping to encourage participation through a variety of ways including, adjusting soil rental rates, increasing payments for practice incentives from 20% to 50%, increasing payments for water quality practices from 10% to 20%, and adding a grassland minimum rental rate.

“The county office can run what they call a CRP scenario and tell them [farmers] this is what rate you’ll have per acre and these are the incentives that would be involved in the practice that you’re wanting to do,” said Carla Wikoff, Chief Ag Program Specialist for the Kansas Farm Service Agency.

The USDA reports acres currently in the program reduce more than 12 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Looking to top that is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. He said, “We need to invest in CRP and let it do what it does best—preserve topsoil, sequester carbon, and reduce the impacts of climate change.”

Currently, CRP land contracts can last for up to 15 years.

Wikoff says the new incentives may make the program and commitment more appealing for some producers.

“Producers are businesses and they want to succeed financially right? This just gives them an incentive to maybe make it a little more competitive,” said Wikoff.

According to Wikoff, agencies are currently waiting for the incentive changes to be finalized. She says farmers that may have questions should contact their local service center.