USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)
The Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) is an agricultural land conservation program administrated by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and is an offshoot of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Like CRP, it is a voluntary program available to farmers and other agricultural and silvicultural operations with the mission to restore and protect environmentally sensitive lands with special emphasis on wetlands, wildlife habitat, and water quality buffers.
As with the CRP program, farmers remove sensitive areas from agricultural production for 10 to 15 years. Participants plant to minimize soil erosion and improve water quality and wildlife habitat. In addition to an annual rental payment and cost-share assistance for qualifying practices, many conservation activities are eligible for additional annual and one-time up-front financial incentives. The Texas average rental payment per acre of CCRP land was $40.48 in January 2015.
Unlike CRP, the CCRP application process is non-competitive: all applicants are accepted up to funding and acreage limits of the program. Entire fields do not have to be enrolled as in the CRP program. Filter strips, riparian buffers, grassed waterways, wetlands, and contour buffer strips are all eligible for CCRP. Enrollment for CCRP occurs all year round until the acreage cap set in the Farm Bill is reached.
- A valuable subset of CCRP is the Farmable Wetlands Program. This program specifically targets previously farmed wetland areas, and provides landowners with a yearly rental payment. In general, prior wetland areas must have been farmed for 3 of the last 10 crop years. Participants restore the wetland elevations and hydrography, establish wetland plant communities, and remove the area from commercial production for 10 – 15 years.
- Another subset of CCRP is the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program. A SAFE initiative that has a wetland application is the Texas Gulf Coast Prairies SAFE. At this time, USDA FSA is enrolling 500 acres of habitat in the Gulf Coast Prairie region of Texas for restoration of grassland and shallow water habitat to benefit bird species. This initiative is closely coordinated with the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, and is only available to agricultural land in Aransas, Austin, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Jefferson, Lavaca, Liberty, Matagorda, Orange, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, Waller, and Wharton Counties.
- Another CCRP initiative is the Highly Erodible Land Initiative. This allows lands with an Erodibility Index of 20 or more to be converted to wildlife-friendly conservation cover. Contracts extend over 10 years, including an annual rental rate and a cost-share portion of the cost to plant and maintain the cover. Land must have been planted with an agricultural commodity for 4 of last 6 years.
- A CCRP initiative called the Longleaf Pine Initiative aims to improve the sustainability and profitability of longleaf pine forest ecosystems in 9 southeastern states, including in East Texas. Participating landowners must implement at least one program Core Conservation Practice. Technical and financial assistance is available for this work, as well as implementation of program Support Practices (which includes Wetland Wildlife Habitat Management).
- Several wetland conservation initiatives exist: Bottomland Hardwoods Initiative, Duck Habitat Initiative, Floodplain Wetland Initiative, and Non-Floodplain and Playa Lakes Wetland Initiative.
CRP Continuous Sign-Up is offered on an ongoing basis through your local USDA FSA office. To find your local FSA office:
- Farmable Wetlands Program, Highly Erodible Lands, and SAFE enrollment is offered through your local USDA FSA office at the link above.
Note: In October 2014, Fiscal Year 2015 CCRP signup #47 was opened for new enrollment. As of the end of March 2015, 107,000 have been enrolled under signup #47.
Learn about the CRP Program