One of the most successful federal conservation initiatives has reached the 25-year milestone in 2011. About 30 people took part in a June 23 tour in Montgomery County to acknowledge the impact the Conservation Reserve Program has had in Missouri.
The tour was a cooperative effort between the USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation. The tour highlighted four landowners and showcased a variety of conservation practices implemented on their farms.
Gerald Hrdina, chief of Conservation Programs with Missouri FSA, described the evolution of CRP over the past 25 years. "When this program first started in 1986, the main objective was prevention of soil erosion," Hrdina said. "Now, we see a variety of practices that not only help with soil loss, but also provide wildlife habitat and clean our water sources."
The tour showcased a shallow water area for wildlife, a riparian buffer of trees along the Loutre River, a habitat buffer for upland birds and wildlife food plots, a tree planting practice and a variety of fields of native grasses and filter strips.
CRP began protecting our nation's natural resources with the signing of the Food Security Act of 1985. The act provided for the establishment of CRP and for the protection of highly erodible land. The program was introduced at a time when soil erosion exceeded more than 3 billion tons per year, wetlands were being drained, water quality was deteriorating and wildlife populations were under stress due to declining habitat.
Since its inception, CRP participants have restored grasses, trees and wetlands on over 31 million acres and planted 2.7 million acres of trees, making it the largest federal tree-planting program in history.
CRP is a voluntary program that encourages agricultural landowners to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover. Landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term conservation practices on eligible farmland. To date, 31.3 million acres have been enrolled nationally in nearly 738,000 contracts. Missouri has 1.4 million acres enrolled in 37,000 contracts.
Landowners interested in enrolling in CRP should contact their local FSA county office. More information on CRP can be found online at www.fsa.usda.gov.
Source: Missouri USDA-FSA