The fate of land in expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts, 2013-16.

Published online
02 Apr 2020
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Bigelow, D. & Claassen, R. & Hellerstein, D. & Breneman, V. & Williams, R. & You ChengXia
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Voluntary retirement of cropland under the USDA's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides numerous benefits related to soil erosion, water quality, wildlife habitat provision, and other environmental services. The persistence of benefits realized under the program depends on what happens to CRP land when the contract expires. Using a novel dataset of expiring CRP contracts and post-CRP land use over 2013-16, this report considers the fate of the 8.1 million acres of land in active CRP contracts in 2012-roughly one quarter of all CRP land - that expired between 2013 and 2016. This period partly coincided with relatively high crop prices and relatively low reenrollment opportunity. Most land (64 percent) did not reenroll in the program, and about 80 percent of non-reenrolled land converted to some type of crop production over the subsequent 1-4 years. The land in expiring CRP contracts is geographically dispersed, with higher reenrollment rates for land in "continuous" CRP signup - a CRP segment that targets practices and land with high conservation value - and for land contracted for a tree-cover practice. Conversion of CRP land to crop production tends to be concentrated in the Corn Belt and on exiting continuous CRP land.

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