David Schaad, acting state executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency in California announced that USDA will begin issuing $4.6 million in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments to eligible producers in California. More than $1.7 billion in CRP payments are being made on 33 million acres across the country.

“The Conservation Reserve Program works cooperatively with America’s farmers and ranchers to conserve and preserve the soil and water that we, and numerous wildlife species, depend on for survival,” said Schaad. “These payments represent an investment in the nation’s land that will pay dividends in the form of a cleaner environment today and for our grandchildren.”

The payments announced today are annual rental payments in California earned on the 128,814 California acres enrolled in the CRP, including the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and Continuous Sign-Up Program for Fiscal Year 2009. Producers holding 524 contracts on 412 farms in California will receive an average of $11,173 per farm or $35.74 per acre. The number of contracts is higher than the number of farms because producers may have multiple contracts on a single farm.

This voluntary program helps agricultural producers safeguard environmentally sensitive land. Producers enroll in CRP and plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve water quality, control soil erosion and enhance habitats for waterfowl and wildlife. In return, USDA provides producers with rental payments. CRP contract duration is from 10 to 15 years. Land to be enrolled must be either highly erodible, contribute to a serious water quality problem, provide important wildlife habitat or provide substantial environmental benefits if devoted to certain specific conservation uses.

For more information on CRP, producers should contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office or visit FSA’s Web site at www.fsa.usda.gov.