USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Bruce Nelson has announced that the sign-up deadline for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has been extended to April 13, 2012.

“Due to strong interest in CRP, the decision was made to extend CRP sign-up 43 for an additional week,” Nelson said. “I encourage all eligible farmers and ranchers to take advantage of this opportunity to participate in CRP. Whether new enrollees or re-enrolling existing CRP contracts, producers who sign up for CRP help to conserve land and improve our soil, water, air and wildlife habitat resources."

After the CRP general sign-up ends on April 13, FSA will evaluate offers based on cost and the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI). The EBI takes into consideration variables such as wildlife habitat, water quality protection, soil erosion reduction, air quality protection and other enduring benefits. Accepted offers will become effective on Oct. 1, 2012.

CRP is a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them use environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat.

In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.

Producers with expiring contracts and producers with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate their options under CRP. Currently, about 30 million acres are enrolled in CRP.

The program continues to make major contributions to national efforts to improve water and air quality, prevent soil erosion by protecting the most sensitive areas including those prone to flash flooding and runoff.

CRP has helped increase populations of pheasants, quail, ducks, and other rare species, like the sage grouse, the lesser prairie chicken, and others. CRP highlights:

Producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA service center or visit FSA’s website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/crp for additional information regarding CRP.