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Conservation Reserve Program Sign-up to Be Held Dec. 1-Feb. 26

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has been informed that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up will be held Dec. 1, 2015, through Feb. 26, 2016.

Through the program’s various targeted continuous CRP practices, the general and continuous program offerings will provide a much-needed habitat boost to recovering bobwhite quail along with other upland and wetland wildlife species. Vilsack also said that eligible existing program participants with contracts that expired Sept. 30, 2015, may be granted an option for a one-year extension.

“This is great news for landowners in Tennessee who are looking to improve wildlife habitat on their property while at the same time supplementing income on highly erodible or flood prone areas of the farm,” said Chris Hunter, West Tennessee TWRA Private Lands Biologist. “The general sign-up acres will help keep CRP habitat acreage at its targeted cap of 24 million acres nationwide, which is critical to both wetland and upland wildlife species.”

General sign-up applications will be ranked on a competitive basis. The general sign-up will include locations that are in a Conservation Priority Area (CPA) for both Wildlife and Water Quality CPAs. Applicants in CPA counties will receive additional bonus points that will make them more competitive in the overall ranking. The following counties shall be included in the Wildlife Priority CPA: Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Haywood, Obion and Weakley in USDA Area 1 and Giles, Lawrence, Lincoln, Montgomery and Robertson in Area 2, respectively. The following counties shall be in the Water Quality CPA: Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henderson, Henry, Lake, Madison, Obion and Weakley in Area 1 and Montgomery, Robertson, Stewart and Sumner in Area 2, respectively. For designated habitat practices, a landowner can receive up to 30 Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) bonus points for being in either a Water Quality or Wildlife CPA county and may receive 60 EBI bonus points if a county is designated for both. The general sign-up will begin the same month CRP, regarded as the most successful conservation initiative in modern U.S. history, officially celebrates its 30 year anniversary.

“On an ongoing basis, there are also continuous CRP practices available year round such as State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE 38E) initiative, CP33 Upland Habitat Buffers initiative and the CP42 Pollinator Habitat initiative which can be compared to the ‘gold standard’ for upland habitat quality, while at the same time providing additional incentives for landowners,” said Hunter.

“I encourage all farmers and ranchers to consider the various CRP continuous sign-up initiatives that may help target specific resource concerns,” said Vilsack. “Financial assistance is offered for many practices including conservation buffers and pollinator habitat plantings, and initiatives such as the highly erodible lands, bottomland hardwood tree and longleaf pine, all of which are extremely important initiatives.

“For 30 years, the Conservation Reserve Program has supported farmers and ranchers as they continue to be good stewards of land and water. This initiative has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequestering 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road. This has been one of most successful conservation programs in the history of the country, and today’s announcement keeps that momentum moving forward.”

USDA service centers are located across the state of Tennessee. Applicants interested in CRP continuous practices may apply now. Applicants interested in the CRP general sign-up may start applying as early as Dec. 1, 2015.