Delta Waterfowl Applauds USDA’s Expansion of Conservation Reserve Program

Enhanced incentives will boost habitat for upland-nesting ducks including mallards, pintails and teal

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA — The United States Department of Agriculture has opened enrollment for the Conservation Reserve Program with a host of improvements — including higher payments and other attractive incentives for farmers and ranchers — that were advocated for by Delta Waterfowl. The Duck Hunters Organization celebrates this conservation milestone and the critical habitat for upland-nesting ducks, such as pintails, mallards and teal, that it will put on the landscape.

“CRP is one of the most impactful conservation programs ever in terms of boosting annual duck production in the U.S. prairie pothole region,” said John Devney, senior vice president of policy for Delta Waterfowl. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that during its peak enrollment, CRP annually added 2.2 million additional ducks to the fall flight.”

USDA’s goal is to enroll up to 4 million new acres in CRP by raising rental payment rates and expanding the number of incentivized environmental practices allowed under the program. CRP is one of the world’s largest voluntary conservation programs with a long track record of protecting habitat for breeding ducks, upland birds and other wildlife. Current CRP enrollment entails 20.8 million acres, but the program is capped at 25 million acres for 2021, and the cap will increase to 27 million acres by 2023.

“Delta applauds the USDA and the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the expansion and enhancement of CRP,” Devney said. “It will have tangible benefits for ducks, duck hunters and wildlife in general.”

Here are several of the changes to help increase producer interest, which would in turn make more ducks:

  • Adjusting soil rental rates: This enables additional flexibility for rate adjustments, including a possible increase in rates where appropriate.
  • Increasing payments for Practice Incentives from 20 percent to 50 percent: This incentive for continuous CRP practices is based on the cost of establishment and is in addition to cost share payments.
  • Increasing payments for water quality practices: Rates are increasing from 10 percent to 20 percent for certain water quality benefiting practices available through the CRP continuous signup, such as grassed waterways, riparian buffers and filter strips.
  • Establishing a CRP Grassland minimum rental rate: This benefits more than 1,300 counties with rates currently below the minimum.
  • Moving State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement practices to the CRP continuous signup. Unlike the general signup, producers can sign up year-round for the continuous signup and be eligible for additional incentives.

“The increase to Practice Incentive Payments alone will make CRP more attractive to landowners, ensuring millions more acres of critical nesting duck habitat are on the landscape,” Devney said. “Delta would also like to thank Sen. John Thune of South Dakota for championing the Soil Health and Income Protection Program — an innovative new tool within CRP to add grassland cover in the U.S. prairie pothole region on a large scale using convenient, short-term contracts.”

Farmers, ranchers and other landowners interested in enrolling in CRP should visit fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program

Delta Waterfowl is The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and ensure the tradition of duck hunting in North America. Visit deltawaterfowl.org.