Farm conservation programs in the United States are making an increasingly positive impact on sustainable farming practices while protecting the environment.
Over the past thirty years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has helped farmers restore and protect land and to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. On December 23, the CRP will celebrate its 30th anniversary with results that speak for themselves.
Since 1985, the program has:
- Prevented more than 9 billion tonnes of soil from eroding. That’s enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks;
- Reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to annually tilled cropland by 95 and 85 percent, respectively;
- Sequestered an annual average of 49 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. That similar to taking 9 million cars off the road;
- And since 1996, CRP has created nearly 11 million hectares (2.7 million acres) of restored wetlands.
Since its enactment, the CRP has enrolled nearly 10 million hectares (24.2 million acres) of land and is protecting more than 270,00 kilometers of streams (170,000 miles) with riparian forest and grass buffers—enough to go around the world nearly seven times.
Farmers and ranchers who take part in CRP establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as “covers”) to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish native plant species on marginal agricultural lands for the primary purpose of preventing soil erosion and improving water quality and related benefits of reducing loss of wildlife habitat.