Nearly a quarter of a million acres and more than 850 landowners in Weld County are part of the Conservation Reserve Program, giving them access to rental payments and cost-share assistance of up to 50 percent.
CRP, a 25-year-old voluntary program for agricultural landowners, is designed to protect soil, plants, water, animals and air. Annual rental payments are based on the rental value of the land and contracts last for 10 to 15 years.
According to WGCD and NRCS records, since its establishment CRP has:
- Prevented more than 9 billion tons of soil from eroding;
- Reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff by 95- and 85 percent respectively;
- Sequestered an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases; and
- Created nearly 2.7 million acres of restored wetlands.
The 248,000 CRP acres represents slightly less than 10 percent of the Weld’s total land – 2.57 million acres – and about 13 percent of the county’s farmland. Even so, the total shows a decline in recent years because of reduced funding and the number of acres allowed.
To enroll, consider three main practices for installation on CRP:
- Establishment of permanent native grasses (CP2);
- Native cover that is established (CP10); and,
- Permanent wildlife habitat (CP4D.
Participants must perform contract management midway through their contracts, between years four and six of a 10-year contract. Options include haying, grazing, light disking, burning, and interseeding. If any list-A noxious weeds are on the land, spraying is necessary. Mid-contract management:
- Promotes new, healthy grasses.
- Improves structural diversity, wildlife, habitats for declining species;
- Removes duff; and
- Controls woody vegetation.
Management options may pose minor problems. For example, grazing may be the best practice, but it can be difficult for a participant that does not own any livestock, does not have easy access to water and does not have a fence. One solution: A participant can assemble a hot-wire fence and bring in a water tank. Further complications arise in wet productive years.
Another problem: noxious weeds, especially A-list species. They can be harmful and difficult to remove once established and are not allowed on CRP land. And if a participant’s neighbors don’t control their weeds, he/she can contact the county’s weed division or talk with the neighbor(s) in question.
Contact the Greeley NRCS Field office for more information 970-356-8097 ext. 3