Land Retirement and Land Preservation
Land retirement and wetland and grassland reserve programs do much to protect America’s fragile soils and critical ecosystems. For the last twenty years, the national Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has fought to protect wetlands and grasslands through strong conservation reserve provisions and to improve the soil and water quality on land that has been removed from production through the establishment of high priority conservation practices, such as buffer strips.
Alongside others in the conservation community, NSAC has worked to establish:
- the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in which the USDA offers annual payments and cost-share assistance to farmers to establish long-term conserving cover, primarily grasses and trees, on land that has been in row crop production. In previous farm bills, NSAC worked successfully with others in the conservation community to establish a continuous signup provision in CRP, the CCRP (sometimes referred to as the CRP buffer initiative), which provides payments to farmers to establish riparian buffers, grass waterways, contour grass strips, and other specific partial field conservation practices on land in agricultural production. In addition, USDA may enter into a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement with a state, under which the state provides funding, in addition to the federal CRP funding, to pay farmers to address targeted conservation issues within the state;
- the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) in which USDA purchases long-term or permanent easements to restore, protect and enhance wetland values and functions on eligible wetland that has been in agricultural production;
- the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) in USDA which helps landowners restore and protect grassland, rangeland, pastureland, shrubland and certain other lands and provides assistance for rehabilitating grasslands.
In addition to helping keep fragile land and water systems or previously uncropped land out of agriculture, NSAC works to keep existing farmland in agriculture through:
- the Farmland Protection Program (FPP) which helps farmers keep their land in agriculture by providing matching funds to state, local, or tribal government entities and nongovernmental organizations with existing farmland protection programs to purchase conservation easements. The goal of the program is to protect between 170,000 and 340,000 acres of farmland. NRCS has been designated is the lead agency in implementing this program.