The 2014 Farm Bill cut conservation funding by $4 billion and reduced the number of acres allowed into the Conservation Reserve Program by millions. Credit: Photo by Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

The Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, established by Congress in 1985, provides an annual payment to farmers who commit to taking environmentally sensitive land out of agricultural production and planting species that improve the health and quality of the environment. 

According to data from USDA’s Economic Research Service, CRP enrollment fluctuated around 33 million acres nationally, but in 2021 fell to its lowest level in three decades. By the end of 2022, land enrolled in the program increased to 22 million acres after the previous year’s drop.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress limited the number of acres allowed into the program.

Only four states in the Midwest have increased their acreage in the program between 2000 and 2022, according to Investigate Midwest’s analysis of CRP data. Leading the way are Nebraska, where the acreage increased by 46%, and South Dakota, which increased by 33%.

On average, Kansas and North Dakota have the most total acres enrolled. 

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Mónica Cordero is a Report for America corps member and part of the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk team. Her expertise includes data analysis with Python and SQL, and reporting under the...

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