Ducks Unlimited: CRP sign-up comes at critical time for ducks

BISMARCK, N.D. – July 28, 2010 – Ducks Unlimited says the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new Conservation Reserve Program general sign-up comes at a critical time for duck populations, with nesting grounds continuing to disappear. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday that the agency will allow new enrollments in CRP in 2010, the first time since 2006.

"This is great news for wetlands conservation, waterfowl habitat, waterfowl and waterfowl hunters," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "Maintaining CRP acres will translate into more ducks in the fall flight across the country each year."

CRP provides critically important upland nesting cover for ducks in the United States portion of the Prairie Pothole Region, one of DU's highest conservation priority areas. Both native grassland and CRP continue to decline at alarming rates across the PPR. More than 1.5 million acres of CRP have disappeared from the PPR since 2007. Another 2.8 million acres are scheduled to expire from September 30, 2010, to September 30, 2012.

Converting CRP acreage back to cropland

Currently, 31.3 million acres are enrolled in CRP, just shy of the 32-million-acre maximum enrollment mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill. The sign-up will enroll 4.4 million acres, which will help offset the nearly 4.5 million acres scheduled to expire in 2010, helping to maintain the program near the authorized level.

"Ducks Unlimited applauds Secretary Vilsack for his commitment to maintaining CRP near the 32 million acre mark," Hall said. "CRP has been one of the premier conservation programs for America's soil, water and wildlife resources over the past 25 years, and this announcement is an important step toward ensuring that the program remains a national priority."

The sign-up will be open to interested landowners August 2-27, 2010. Offers compete nationally through an Environmental Benefits Index, with the highest scoring offers being accepted into the program.

"Rental rates have been recently updated and we expect strong interest from landowners across the Prairie Pothole Region," said Scott McLeod, governmental affairs representative for DU's Great Plains Regional office. "Ultimately, the EBI will determine which offers are accepted into the program so landowners in the PPR should work closely with FSA, DU, state wildlife agencies and other conservation organizations to help maximize their EBI score."

Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres, thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.

Jennifer Kross
Becky Jones Mahlum