DES MOINES – The USDA has extended the signup deadline for the general Conservation Reserve Program, a popular way for landowners to conserve land while improving soil, water and wildlife habitat.
The deadline moved from April 6 to 13, giving farmers an extra week to enroll in the program at their local USDA Farm Service Agency office.
That gives interested landowners more time to make decisions about which plants to plant and which acres to enroll or re-enroll. Those decisions are important because the Farm Service Agency evaluates the offers based on the contract cost and the Environmental Benefits Index.
The DNR’s biologists and foresters can help land owners increase their scores on the Environmental Benefits Index, enhancing their changes of having the contract accepted. Higher scores indicate more benefits, increasing protection for water quality, soil erosion and wildlife habitat. For example, choosing the steepest land to put in CRP will reduce soil erosion more than enrolling a flatter field. Planting trees or a diverse mix of native grasses and wildflowers will provide a higher score than planting a stand of non-native cool season grass, but may take more management and be more costly to initially establish.
“Another thing to consider is that it’s not about the price of corn anymore, it’s about the profit margin,” said Todd Bogenschutz, the DNR’s pheasant biologist. “Input costs, including rent, are going up. So with $5 and $6 corn, that definitely should be a consideration on marginal ground.”
The DNR’s wildlife biologists and foresters can offer help on plant species that will help landowners meet their goals for wildlife and erosion control. Find out more about how to make a competitive CRP bid at www.iowadnr.gov