USDA offers new forest management incentive for Conservation Reserve Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making available $12 million for use in making payments to forest landowners with land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in exchange for their implementing healthy forest management practices. Existing CRP participants can now sign up for the Forest Management Incentive (FMI), which provides financial incentives to landowners with land in CRP to encourage proper tree thinning and other practices.

“We are offering CRP landowners an opportunity to use forestry practices for a more targeted approach to improve forest health and wildlife habitat on their land,” said Richard Fordyce, administrator for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “The Forest Management Incentive enables landowners to maximize the conservation outcomes on their land, such as supporting wildlife, conserving soil and improving water quality.”

Right now, less than 10% of land currently enrolled in CRP is dedicated to forestland. But, these nearly 2 million acres of CRP forestland, if properly managed, can have enormous benefits for natural resources by reducing soil erosion, protecting water quality, increasing water quantity, and diversifying local farm operations and rural economies.

Only landowners and agricultural producers with active CRP contracts involving forest cover can enroll. However, this does not include active CRP contracts that expire within two years. Existing CRP participants interested in tree thinning and prescribed burning must comply with the standards and specifications established in their CRP contract.

CRP participants will receive the incentive payment once tree thinning and/or other authorized forest management practices are completed.

The incentive payment is the lower of:

  • The actual cost of completing the practice; or
  • 75% of the payment rate offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) if the practice is offered through NRCS conservation programs.

CRP signup began, Jan. 19, 2021. FSA will announce deadline later this year. Interested producers should contact their local FSA county office.   

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