FSA California State Executive Director Val Dolcini announced a four-week Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general signup, beginning on March 12 and ending on April 6. This marks the 25th year that CRP has helped protect the nation's natural resources through voluntary participation, while providing economic and environmental benefits to rural communities nationwide.

"Producers with environmentally sensitive cropland should take a close look at this program to protect habitat and waterways," said Dolcini. “CRP is an important program for protecting our most environmentally sensitive lands from erosion and sedimentation, and for ensuring the sustainability of our groundwater and waterways.” Dolcini notes that there is usually strong competition to enroll acres into CRP, and he urges interested producers to act now.

CRP is a voluntary program to assist agricultural producers use environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.

Producers with expiring contracts and producers with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate their options under CRP. Producers also are encouraged to look into CRP’s other enrollment opportunities offered on a continuous, non-competitive, signup basis. Producers with expiring CRP contracts are not guaranteed offer acceptance but are advised to maximize environmental benefits in their offers to be competitive.

Currently, about 30 million acres in the U.S. are enrolled in CRP. Contracts on an estimated 6.5 million acres will expire on Sept. 30, 2012.

Offers for CRP contracts are ranked according to the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI). USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) collects data for each of the EBI factors based on the relative environmental benefits for the land offered. Each eligible offer is ranked in comparison to all other offers and selections made from that ranking.

For more information on CRP and other FSA programs, visit a local FSA service center or www.fsa.usda.gov.