The USDA has allocated 115 thousand acres from the Conservation Reserve Program to Iowa, so farmers previously shut out of CRP can apply on a first-come first-served basis this month.
Contracts on some 2. 5 million acres nationwide are expiring this year, and the federal government is taking a more targeted approach to the program, which pays farmers to transfer environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production into conservation.
Overall, CRP has become more competitive. Low commodity prices has caused farmers to find other income sources, and the most recent farm bill lowered the national CRP acreage cap from 32 million acres to 24 million acres.
Due to the lower cap some may find the these 115 thousand acres a pleasant surprise, but there’s a catch. These acres will only be assigned to land that can be used for certain habitat preservation.
"A lot of time people will enroll whole fields," says Todd Bogenschutz, the farm bill coordinator at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. "[Now] they're more looking, not to enroll the whole field, but a part of the field that's kind of problematic."
The specific habitats the CRP acres will target are pollinators, such as bees, as well as pheasants, quails and grassland birds, like barn owls and meadowlarks.
Farmers wishing to enroll in CRP can sign up at their local USDA office.