Expiring Conservation Reserve Program Options

Over 292,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in Minnesota will be expiring from this USDA program on September 30, 2012. Conservationists are concerned that many of these CRP acres which have been planted to native grasses and forbs may be converted to annual row crops due to economic land use practices and returns. This conversion will potentially increase soil erosion, decrease water quality and wildlife habitat.

There are conservation programs which expiring CRP lands can qualify for at economic levels. In some cases multiple benefits and returns could be realized. Landowners evaluating options for expiring CRP acres should consider opportunities to keep sensitive acres in grasslands or perennial vegetation that preserve soil, water and wildlife resources. Many CRP lands border ditches, waterways, streams or rivers that could  be eligible for federal, state or local buffer programs that would offer continued protection to these sensitive areas.

Today’s agriculture has changed dramatically since CRP was established in 1985. Commodity and land prices have increased to historic levels. A fact sheet has been developed from local, state and federal agency staff to review several perennial vegetationoptions for expiring CRP lands. Items highlighted in this document include a short description, potential programs, opportunities, contacts and web sites are given for each option. This fact sheet is available on the UMN Extension Agroforestry web site.  (Look for “Fact sheets” at upper right.)

Gary Wyatt
Gary Wyatt is an Extension educator with a focus on agroforestry and bio-energy. Gary works with federal and state agency partners in promoting conservation and agroforestry practices in rural landscapes. Other topics of expertise include invasive species, tree selection, living snow fences, nontimber forest products, riparian buffers, windbreaks and ecosystem services. Gary is based at the Mankato Regional Office.

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