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The Conservation Reserve Program

The Conservation Reserve Program

(p.295) Spotlight 14.1 The Conservation Reserve Program
Stitching the West Back Together
Steven E. Kraft
University of Chicago Press

Established through the 1985 Food Security Act, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a federal policy managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in which landowners/farmers voluntarily remove environmentally sensitive land from crop production. In return they receive an annual cash rental payment for the ten- or fifteen-year life of the contract. The public benefits from the program by receiving a suite of ecosystem services in the form of reduced erosion, improved water quality and wildlife habitat, and curbed production of surplus commodities. In the context of this payment for ecosystem services scheme, farmers submit bids to USDA reflecting the minimum annual rental rate they would accept in exchange for not farming it. USDA evaluates bids according to an Environmental Benefits Index that weights various environmental benefits; the relative weights of benefits change over time to reflect changing values.

Keywords:   Conservation Reserve Program, payment for ecosystem services, environmental benefits index, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), surplus commodity

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