U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Michigan Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced that an additional 3,500 acres of agricultural land in Michigan is eligible for funding for wildlife habitat restoration.The initiative, known as State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), is part of the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally-funded voluntary program that for 30 years has assisted agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. CRP has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road.
In total, up to 400,000 acres of additional agricultural land will be eligible for wildlife habitat restoration funding through this SAFE announcement. The additional acres are part of an earlier CRP wildlife habitat announcement made by Secretary Vilsack. Currently, more than 1 million acres, representing 98 projects, are enrolled in SAFE nationwide.
“This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program, which has not only resulted in significant soil and water improvements, but also greater populations of waterfowl, gamebirds and other wildlife native to the rural countryside,” said Christine White, Michigan FSA Executive Director. “Here in Michigan, 10,000 acres in the Michigan Diverse Grassland and 3,500 acres in the Michigan Native Pollinator projects are designed specifically to increase pollinator and grassland bird habitat. Since it was first established in 2008, farmers and ranchers have enrolled approximately 6,500 acres, showing a positive population trend on enrolled acreage in these focus areas. We hope to continue this progress by offering interested farmers and ranchers the opportunity to enroll another 3,500 acres in this project.”
Landowners and producers are encouraged to learn more about the program through their local Conservation District and FSA County office. To learn more the 30th anniversary of CRP and to review 30 success stories throughout the year, click here or follow Twitter at #CRPis30. Additionally, more information about FSA conservation programs is available by visiting the FSA website.
Michigan Conservation Districts support SAFE and the many conservation programs made available through the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill was reauthorized in 2014 and builds on past the Farm Bill success, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. For more information on Michigan Conservation Districts, visit the MACD website. For more information on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.