Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner announced that USDA will distribute approximately $1.8 billion in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental payments to participants across the country for fiscal year 2008 for completed performance in the prior fiscal year.

"By participating in CRP, producers and other landowners throughout the nation are improving air and water quality, enhancing wildlife habitat and reducing erosion," said Conner. "These practices are making a real difference today and promoting a healthier environment for the next generation."

Producers holding about 782,000 contracts on 441,000 farms will receive an average of $49.49 per acre. The number of contracts is higher than the number of farms because some producers may have multiple contracts on a single farm. The payments allow producers to earn an average of $4,130 per farm enrolled in the program.

Included in the totals are 355,000 contracts (3.9 million acres) for CRP's continuous sign-up and 427,000 contracts (32.9 million acres) for general sign-up. Under continuous sign-up, producers may enroll high priority conservation practices such as filter strips and riparian buffers at any time without competition.

Currently, enrollment stands at 36.8 million acres, making CRP the largest public-private partnership for conservation and wildlife habitat in the United States. This voluntary program helps agricultural producers enhance 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.

USDA issues other CRP payments throughout the year. These payments include a 50 percent expense reimbursement for establishing cover as well as incentive payments for enrolling eligible high priority conservation practices.

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