The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has begun distributing Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental payments to participants across the country.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency administers CRP, while technical support functions are provided by public and private sector partners.

CRP is a voluntary program that helps agricultural producers safeguard environmentally sensitive land and provide millions of acres of habitat for game and non-game wildlife species.

Participants enroll in CRP contracts for 10 to 15 years. Currently, total CRP enrollment stands at 29.9 million acres.

“CRP protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion and is designed to safeguard the America’s natural resources,” said FSA Administrator Bruce Nelson.

“By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country.”

The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) makes annual rental payments based on the agriculture rental value of the land, and it provides cost-share assistance for up to 50 percent of the participant's costs in establishing approved conservation practices.

USDA also issues non-rental CRP payments throughout the year. These payments include a 50 percent expense reimbursement for establishing and managing cover as well as incentive payments for enrolling eligible high priority conservation practices.

Beginning today (Oct. 6), producers holding 752,000 contracts on 417,000 farms will receive an average CRP rental payment of $55.06 per acre. Producers will earn an average payment of $4,115 per farm enrolled in the program.

Included in the totals are 414,000 contracts (5.1 million acres) for continuous CRP enrollments and 338,000 contracts (24.8 million acres) enrolled under general CRP. In all, the payments total approximately $1.7 billion.

A table, located at fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/apportstate091311.pdf, lists acreage enrollments by state, number of contracts, number of farms, acres enrolled as of the end of the 2011 fiscal year and CRP projected rental payments for fiscal year 2012.