Conservation Reserve Program
Congress authorized the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, in the 1985 Farm Bill, also known as the Food Security Act, and has reauthorized the program in subsequent farm bills. CRP is managed by the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and provides money and technical help to producers who agree to take environmentally sensitive land out of crop production and plant permanent vegetation. The data we present in the database begins with contracts enrolled in CRP in 2017, to highlight changes in payments before and after the 2018 Farm Bill.
Producers can offer to enroll land into CRP through general or continuous sign-ups. General sign-ups are competitive, and the Farm Service Agency selects applicants based on an environmental benefits index that estimates the possible environmental benefits of enrolling the offered land. Continuous sign-ups are targeted at enrolling particularly sensitive land to mitigate specific environmental and natural resource concerns. Landowners are automatically eligible to enroll such lands at any time. The continuous sign-up operates through several special initiatives, like the Clear Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers, or CLEAR, initiative.
If selected to participate, the producer enters into a 10- or 15-year contract in which they agree to take the land out of crop production and plant various types of perennial vegetation, called cover practices. The program has other sub-programs that have longer contracts for land retirement, such as CLEAR30, which requires a 30-year commitment, and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP, which are federal-state agreements designed to establish buffers of trees and grasses along rivers and streams.
Producers receive payments for part of the cost of establishing the cover practice, and annual rental payments while the land is enrolled in the program. When the contract expires, the producer can put the enrolled acres back into crop production or propose to extend the contract for another 10 years.
The 2018 Farm Bill made several changes to CRP, including setting a minimum acreage enrollment of 27 million acres by 2023, requiring no less than 40 percent of total CRP acres enrolled through the continuous categories of CRP, like CLEAR, CLEAR30 and CREP, and increasing the CRP Grassland Initiative to two million acres by 2023.
About the data
This database includes CRP rental payments by fiscal year, state and county, for fiscal years 2017 through 2020. The data from 2017 through 2019 are from this FSA website and were downloaded in fall 2021. Since rental payments for 2020 by county had not yet been publicly posted at the time of this writing, the 2020 data is from USDA public records requests we made to update EWG’s Farm Subsidy Database. We also submitted a public records request to the USDA for acres by CRP cover practice, so the database also has the number of acres of CRP in different practices, by county, as of January 2020.
For more information about the Conservation Reserve Program, see this FSA website.