New USDA initiative expands conservation tools for farmers

The USDA has announced a new initiative that expands opportunities for farmers and ranchers to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program, a popular voluntary program that offers landowners tools to prevent erosion, protect wildlife habitat and reduce nutrient runoff.

The plan includes new tools to protect water quality and an additional 1.1 million acres targeted to benefit wildlife, pollinators and wetlands.

“With the program close to the legal enrollment limit of 24 million acres, USDA has been working to use all of the tools at our disposal to maximize benefits by combining multiple soil, water and wildlife objectives in the areas where it is needed most,” explained Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the commonwealth’s farmers “have a long history of conservation practices. This latest initiative is another opportunity to participate in voluntary programs that benefit both producers and natural resources.”

A new conservation initiative known as Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers, or CLEAR, will add new tools to CRP that can help improve water quality.

USDA also will add an additional 1.1 million acres to a number of key CRP practices that are critically important to wildlife and conservation. Those include 700,000 acres for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement efforts, which restore high-priority wildlife habitat tailored to a specific state’s needs.

For more information, visit or contact a local USDA Farm Service Agency office.

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