The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) began in 1985 as part of the Food Security Act, it is a voluntary program which provides the opportunity for agricultural producers to contract their land into conservation protection. This takes environmentally sensitive land out of agricultural production, and those participating in the program are required to maintain certain vegetative species which are beneficial to the specific location. These species are mainly various native trees and grasses approved for long term growth in that area which help control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitats. There are two categories for CRP contracts, general and continuous. The history of enrollment within these two categories can be seen in Figure 1.


General CRP

General sign up has a competitive bidding process that is not announced on any set schedule but contracts begin October 1 of each year (and end September 30, the land is ranked based on the environmental benefits and costs. Contracts are awarded based on rank of the land being considered in the bidding process, additionally General CRP contracts run 10-15 years.

Continuous CRP

Continuous CRP offers signup opportunity throughout the year. There is not a bidding process for Continuous CRP, acres are approved based on if they meet the eligibility criteria. These criteria include: wetland restoration, wildlife habitat buffers, wetland buffers, filter strips, riparian buffers and many others. (list of others found Here.) Continuous CRP contracts are also 10-15 years in duration.

Issues for Analysis

There are cases around the country where, for various reasons, CRP rates are higher than cash rental rates. In some cases this is warranted and a product of location and unique circumstances. However, there are other locations where government CRP payment rates are, on average, higher than cash rental rates. This competition is something that creates issues for farmers who would otherwise benefit from farming this land. In these articles, we will consider where these issues are focused around the country. Additionally, the analysis of a possible fix of placing a cap on CRP rates will be explored.


CRP Article Series

Over the course of the next month articles analyzing several aspects of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will be published to the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation website. The subjects of these articles will include:

  • Introduction to the Conservation Reserve Program
  • General CRP Acreage and Per Acre Payments     
  • Continuous CRP Acreage and Per Acre Payments
  • General CRP as a Ratio of Non-Irrigated Cropland and Pastureland
  • Continuous CRP as a Ratio of Non-Irrigated Cropland
  • General and Continuous CRP 80% cash rent cap analysis

Each of these points are provided with data derived from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA), and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Additionally, these analyses will be on the state and county level to provide the highest level of specificity possible without revealing individual contract information.