Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer has announced that USDA will distribute $1.8 billion in Conservation Reserve Program rental payments to participants across the country for fiscal year 2009.

Producers holding about 766,000 contracts on 430,000 farms will receive an average of $50.93 per acre. The payments allow producers enrolled in the program to earn an average of $4,105 per farm.

Included in the totals are 380,000 contracts (4.1 million acres) for the Conservation Reserve Program's (CRP) continuous sign-up and 386,000 contracts (30.6 million acres) for general sign-up. Under continuous sign-up, producers may enroll high priority conservation practices such as filter strips, riparian buffers, and wetland restorations at any time without competition.

Currently, enrollment stands at 34.7 million acres, making CRP the largest public-private partnership for conservation and wildlife habitat in the United States. This voluntary program helps agricultural producers safeguard environmentally-sensitive land. Producers enroll in CRP and plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve water quality, control soil erosion and enhance habitats for waterfowl and wildlife. In return, USDA provides producers with annual rental payments. CRP contract duration is from 10 to 15 years.

USDA issues other 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.

A table, located at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/enroll.pdf, lists acreage enrollments by state, number of contracts, number of farms, acres enrolled and CRP projected rental payments for fiscal year 2009.

For more information on CRP, contact your local Farm Service Agency office or visit this Web site: http://www.fsa.usda.gov.