Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced that the Agriculture Department is issuing $1.8 billion in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental payments to participating producers for fiscal year 2007. The payments give producers an average of $4,143/farm enrolled in the program.

“The Conservation Reserve Program works to conserve and preserve the soil, water and wildlife resources of our nation,” says Johanns. “These payments represent an investment in the nation’s land that will pay dividends in the form of a cleaner environment today and for future generations.”

Producers possessing about 739,000 contracts on 425,000 farms will receive an average of $48.88/acre. The number of contracts exceeds the number of farms because producers may have several contracts on a single farm.

There are 331,000 contracts (3.6 million acres) in CRP’s continuous sign-up program and 408,000 contracts (32.4 million acres) for general sign-up. Under continuous sign-up, producers may enroll high-priority conservation practices such as filter strips and riparian buffers at any time without competition.

Current enrollment stands at more than 36 million acres, making the CRP the largest public-private partnership for conservation and wildlife habitat in the United States.

CRP is a voluntary program by which agricultural producers can safeguard environmentally sensitive land, and in return, USDA provides producers with rental payments. CRP contracts typically run 10-15 years.

USDA also extends payments throughout the year. These payments include a 50% expense reimbursement for establishing cover and incentive payments for enrolling eligible, high-priority conservation practices. In fiscal year 2007, these payments are projected at $116 million for expense reimbursements and $79 million for incentive payments.