The program includes the voluntary Conservation Reserve, which gives landowners annual rent payments for fragile farmland that has idled for a decade or more. A 2018 expansion hasn’t caught on with landowners according to Successful Farming, which estimates a net decline of nearly 2 million acres. Enrollment for the October 1 start of fiscal 2021 dipped to about 20 million acres. Lawmakers, who blame the fact that USDA’s payments are set at 85% of the local average for area land, are seeking incentives as a way to spur interest. As the largest land idling program in the US, the Conservation Reserve seeks to reduce soil erosion, protect water quality, and improve wildlife habitats.
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