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1997 Results - Conservation Reserve Program in Utah

NRI Logo1997 Results - Conservation Reserve Program in Utah

The Conservation Reserve Program is a systematic way of curbing water and wind erosion using vegetative cover on cropland that would otherwise be eroding at a high rate. It starts when a notice from Washington D.C. announces a sign up period at which time landowners interested in participating are invited to notify their local NRCS office for details. A NRCS representative would then assess the land in question, write up a proposal and ask the landowner to submit a bid for which he would receive ten yearly payments if accepted. At the end of the ten-year period one of two things happen. One is that the land is put into another use. Another is that it continues in CRP if another sign up is offered and the landowner chooses to participate.

The type of Land that qualifies as highly erodible according to national standards has an erosion rate that exceeds the T factor. The T factor is described as the maximum amount of erosion at which the quality of a soil as a medium for plant growth can be maintained. In Utah, these soils are normally on steeper valley side slopes subject to washing or open areas subject to soil blowing. To be eligible for CRP, the fields must also have a cropping history. 

Landowners gain in two ways. One is monetarily, through yearly payments from the government for having the land in a vegetative cover. The other is in benefits to the field. Through development of a biomass, the soil has nutrients for future crops, better water intake, higher available water rate, and better soil tilth and accumulated topsoil trapped by the vegetation. Prior to CRP, erosive soils were being mined for a minimal income. Afterwards, the landowner received a tangible benefit while conserving a valuable resource.

The taxpayer receives a benefit as well. Siltation is reduced dramatically. With reduced siltation there is reduced pollution in our streams. Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers stay on the field where they can be used and then processed by bacteria in the soil. When water quality is improved, we see a benefit in our upland and aquatic wildlife habitat types. Wetland areas have less sediment to filter and thus do a better job of cleaning the remaining stream flow. Less money is spent on water abatement because runoff has been decreased. Stream flow is less erratic and more prone to stay in the channel rather than scour erosive banks. The primary benefit to all of us is that CRP allows soil to do a better job of growing crops.