Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced that USDA will issue $1.7 billion in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments to participating producers for fiscal year 2005, allowing producers to earn an average of $4,143 per farm enrolled.

"The Conservation Reserve Program helps farmers and ranchers work cooperatively to preserve the natural resources we all depend on - soil, water and air," said Johanns. "By restoring wetlands and protecting flood plains vital to the health and beauty of our environment, the Bush Administration is fulfilling its commitment to improve water quality and wildlife habit."

Producers holding 694,226 contracts on 405,792 farms will receive an average of $48.18/acre. The number of contracts is higher than the number of farms as some producers may have multiple contracts on a single farm.

The announcement does not include rental payments for 1.2 million acres already enrolled under CRP general sign-up 29, held from Aug. 30 to Sept. 24, 2004. Payments for new CRP acreage will be issued starting in Oct. 2006 or 2007, depending when contracts become effective.

CRP is the largest public-private partnership for conservation and wildlife habitat in the U.S. This voluntary program helps agricultural producers safeguard environmentally sensitive land. Producers enroll in CRP and plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve water quality, control soil erosion and enhance habitats for waterfowl and wildlife. In return, USDA provides producers with rental payments. CRP contract duration is from 10 to 15 years.

Johanns announced Sept. 28 that farmers and ranchers can re-enroll or extend CRP contracts expiring in 2007 through 2010.