USDA updated Conservation Reserve Program rental rates on January 31st, 2022. Now is the time to contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office or Pheasants Forever Habitat Advisor to learn about the multiple options available to increase the profitability of your marginal cropland while improving water quality, reducing soil erosion, and creating wildlife habitat through enrollment in CRP.
If your land is in the James River Watershed, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) might be the best option. Currently, there are over 74,000 acres enrolled in CREP with room to enroll another 25,000 acres. Lands enrolled in CREP are open to public walk-in hunting and fishing and receive an additional rental payment equal to 31% of the weighted average soil rental rate as well as 20% cost-share from South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks (SD GFP) on top of all the incentives, cost-share, and rental payments from FSA for the associated CRP contract.
For example, using county average rental rates, cropland in Beadle County enrolled in CREP could potentially receive annual rental payments from USDA at $150/acre and from SD GFP at $38/acre, for a combined annual rental payment of $188/acre for a 10-to-15-year contract. New CREP contracts that are restoring cropland back to grassland would receive a signing incentive payment from USDA of $48/acre and a combined total of 90% cost-share to seed the cropland back to grassland. Let’s apply these rates to somebody enrolling 100 acres into CREP. They would receive a one-time $4,800 signing incentive payment, 90% establishment cost-share, and rental payments totaling up to $18,800 annually for 10 to 15 years.
There are also multiple continuous CRP enrollment options currently available that don’t require public access. These are all open for enrollment year-round if your land meets the practice requirements. Pheasant SAFE, Western South Dakota Grassland Wildlife SAFE, Duck Nesting Habitat, Wetland Restoration, Buffers, Shelterbelts, Prairie Strips, and Pollinator Habitat are just a few. These continuous CRP options include signing incentive payments, 100% establishment cost share, and rental rate incentives that pay higher rental rates than if you enrolled your land into CRP through a general sign-up.
There is a general CRP sign-up going through March 11th this year. Enrolling cropland into CRP through the general sign-up is a competitive process. Higher scoring offers are those that have more diverse grassland cover mixes on the most erodible cropland. General CRP contracts provide annual rental payments for enrolling cropland and offer 50% cost-share to seed cropland back to grassland. Fortunately, general CRP provides an opportunity for landowners to enroll land that may not qualify for continuous CRP. Furthermore, the diverse grassland mixes offered by general CRP provide exceptional wildlife habitat. If you enroll your land into CRP through a continuous or general sign-up and would like to allow public hunting access to it, SD GFP recently increased its payment rates for placing undisturbed habitat into the Walk-In Area program.