Farmers in north central Iowa’s Prairie Pothole region were offered a new conservation option last week when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) pilot program.

SHIPP offers payments to farmers for planting cover crops on their land for three to five years. 

“We are excited to provide a short-term CRP option tailored to the unique soil health needs of producers in the Prairie Pothole region,” Farm Service Administrator (FSA) Richard Fordyce said. “The number of acres that can be enrolled in the program are limited, and participation will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Interested landowners should act now by contacting their FSA county office to apply.”

The sign-up starts March 30 and ends Aug. 21, with a total of 50,000 acres to be enrolled in Iowa and four other states.

The USDA noted the benefits of cover crops include improved soil health and water quality while having the option to harvest, hay and graze the acres during certain times of the year. The program is offering the option of three-, four- or five-year CRP contracts to establish cover crops on less productive cropland in exchange for payments. 

Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to talk to their FSA county office soon about whether this pilot fits their operation or consider another longer-term option.

For more information, visit or contact your local office. To find your local USDA Service Center office, visit

The Prairie Pothole region is a unique land formation covering portions of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is notable for its shallow wetlands that are only filled part of the year.

The USDA said the SHIPP pilot is the latest option in a full suite of opportunities available to producers through CRP and other conservation programs offered by the agency.