A new USDA conservation initiative will protect up to 750,000 acres of the nation's most highly erodible croplands.

The initiative will assist producers with targeting their most highly erodible cropland (land with an erodibility index of 20 or greater) by enabling them to plant wildlife-friendly, long-term cover through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Producers can enroll land on a continuous basis beginning this summer at their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office.

With the use of soil survey and geographic information system data, local FSA staff can quickly determine a producer's eligibility for the initiative.

Lands eligible for this program are typically the least productive land on the farm. In many cases the most cost-effective option to reduce erosion is to put the land into a wildlife friendly cover, which will improve habitat and reduce sediment and nutrient runoff and reduce wind erosion.

For 25 years, CRP has improved water and air quality, preserved habitat for wildlife, and prevented soil erosion. Programs such as CRP are important conservation safeguards. They prevent the return of the dust storms of the 1930s and the ravages of unmitigated gully erosions of our past.

CRP is a voluntary program designed to help farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers protect their environmentally sensitive land.

Through this initiative, eligible landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland. Land can be enrolled on a continuous basis for a period of 10 years.

Land currently not enrolled in CRP may be offered in this sign-up provided all eligibility requirements are met. Current CRP participants with eligible land expiring on Sept. 30, 2012, may make new contract offers.

CRP has a legacy of successfully protecting the nation's natural resources through voluntary participation, while providing significant economic and environmental benefits to rural communities across the United States.