For Immediate Release

1.7 Million Acres Accepted for CRP, Acre Totals Now at 26-Year Low

Quail Forever has grave concerns regarding continued massive habitat losses through weakening CRP

Washington, D.C. - July 22 -

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will accept 1.7 million acres offered under the 45th Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up, lowering Conservation Reserve Program total acreage to 26.9 million acres. Now at a 26-year program low, Quail Forever calls this depletion a modern low point for conservation, one which will have serious ramifications not only for wildlife, but for the nation’s soil and water quality as well.

“While we thank USDA for recognizing the need for holding this CRP sign-up and applaud the landowners who are participating in conservation, this news of CRP’s historic low acre total makes it even more apparent there are grave concerns for the health of CRP, our nation’s most successful conservation program responsible for countless benefits to water quality, soil resources and wildlife,” says Dave Nomsen, Quail Forever & Pheasants Forever vice-president of governmental affairs.

“Since 2007, we have lost more than 14.7 million acres of CRP, accounting for 26 percent of the program and setting a 26-year low for total acres enrolled. CRP is significantly below the 30 million acre enrollment benchmark maintained for more than two decades. That 30 million-acre mark had been providing record benefits in terms of soil, water, and wildlife resources,” continued Nomsen.

During this spring’s 5-week signup, the Department received 28,000 offers on more than 1.9 million acres of land. USDA selected offers for enrollment based on an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) comprised of five environmental factors plus cost. The five environmental factors are: (1) wildlife enhancement, (2) water quality, (3) soil erosion, (4) enduring benefits, and (5) air quality.

“These recent CRP losses combined with an agricultural climate rampant with conversion of native prairies and wetlands, bulldozing and burning of shelterbelts, woodlots, and dry wetlands - is having a catastrophic impact on our landscape,” said Nomsen. “In the aftermath of this announcement, the American people need to recognize what is taking place on their countryside, especially across much of the northern Great Plains. This is not for just the health of pheasant, quail and other wildlife. At stake is a high quality of life in rural areas, loss of America’s hunting tradition, and environmental benefits important to a sustainable agriculture system.”

CRP is a voluntary program designed to help farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers protect their environmentally sensitive land. Eligible landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland throughout the duration of 10 to 15 year contracts. Under CRP, farmers and ranchers plant grasses and trees in crop fields and along streams or rivers. The plantings prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Plant cover established on the acreage accepted into the CRP will reduce nutrient and sediment runoff in our nation’s rivers and streams.

The USDA also announced today the enrollment of 370,000 acres into Continuous CRP, which is a sizeable number given the lack of a Farm Bill extension last fall meant this signup only has been open since May. These Continuous CRP acres are especially important considering their highly-targeted nature.

For more information regarding today's announcement, please contact Dave Nomsen at (320) 491-9163 or email Dave. For all other inquiries, please contact Rehan Nana, Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever Public Relations Specialist, at (651) 209-4973 or email Rehan.

Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 135,000 members and 720 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent, the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.

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Rehan Nana, Quail Forever Public Relations Specialist, at (651) 209-4973 or email Rehan