Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was one provision of the 1985 Food Security Act designed to protect erosion-prone cropland in the United States. The program includes highly erodible land or land with excessive erosion. The Great Plains, which contains more than 23 million acres of erosion-prone land and is sometimes called the "CRP Belt," played a major role in this program.

The crp provided farmers the opportunity to receive land rental payments for developing a ten-year contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take highly erodible land out of production by planting a permanent cover of grass, legumes, or trees. The CRP program learned from some of the mistakes of the Soil Bank program of the late 1950s and early 1960s. For example, only 25 percent of land in any county could be placed in the program in order to eliminate drastic repercussions on the local agricultural industry.

More than 20 million acres in the Great Plains were placed under protective crp cover at some time during the 1990s. The average rental rate was around $43 per acre. Texas, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, and Kansas retired the most acres into crp. Although modified, with increased emphasis on environmental issues and water quality, CRP continues to operate, with many contracts extending beyond 2010. Critics have considered crp to be an expensive program, with minor effects on reducing production and stabilizing farm income, but it has been very successful in reducing soil erosion, improving wildlife habitat, and increasing the quality of soil, water, and air in the Great Plains.

Edward J. Deibert

North Dakota State University

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