Offers for general sign-up CRP contracts are ranked according to an 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. FSA uses the following factors to assess the environmental benefits for the land offered:

• Wildlife habitat benefits resulting from covers on contract acreage;

• Water quality benefits from reduced erosion, runoff and leaching;

• On-farm benefits from reduced erosion;

• Benefits that will likely endure beyond the contract period;

• Air quality benefits from reduced wind erosion; and

• Cost.

CRP soil rental rates for non-irrigated cropland were updated this year to better reflect location and market conditions. A nationwide cap was placed on the maximum amount that may be paid per acre for the general sign-up. Taken together these steps help ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent in a fiscally responsible manner while producing the maximum environmental benefits for each dollar spent.

CRP is the largest USDA conservation program and continues to make major contributions to national efforts to improve water and air quality, prevent soil erosion, and protect the most sensitive areas including those prone to flash flooding and runoff. At the same time, CRP has helped increase populations of pheasants, quail and ducks and is recognized as benefiting certain rare species like the sage grouse, the lesser prairie chicken and other grassland birds.

Highlights of CRP accomplishments include:

• The restoration of more than two million acres of wetlands and two million acres of riparian buffers;

• Prevention of more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorous from flowing into our nation's streams, rivers, and lakes.

• Providing $1.8 billion annually to landowners — dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs; and

• Sequestering more carbon than any other conservation program in the country. By placing vulnerable cropland into conservation, CRP sequesters carbon in plants and soil and reduces both fuel and fertilizer usage. In 2011, CRP resulted in carbon sequestration equal to taking almost 10 million cars off the road.

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

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