Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the opportunity for producers to enroll a total of 1 million acres of land in a new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative to preserve grasslands and wetlands.

Vilsack discussed the new initiative at the Interior Department during the White House Growing America's Outdoor Heritage and Economy conference, which emphasizes the link between conservation and strong local economies through tourism, outdoor recreation, and healthy lands, waters and wildlife.

The conference has attracted boaters, hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, land conservationists, historic preservationists, outdoor recreationists, small business owners, local governments, tribal leaders and others from across the 50 United States to discuss ways to spur and support successful conservation projects around the nation.

USDA's CRP has a 25-year legacy of successfully protecting the nation's natural resources through voluntary participation, while providing significant economic and environmental benefits to rural communities across the United States. Under the Obama Administration, USDA has enrolled more than 8 million acres in CRP. The goal of the new CRP grasslands and wetlands initiative is to increase enrollment of environmentally sensitive land through targeted signups. USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers CRP, will set aside acres within the 32-million acre program for specific enrollments that benefit duck nesting habitat, upland birds, wetlands, pollinators and wildlife.

"By focusing 1 million acres of CRP on grasslands and wetlands, this initiative will have enormous benefits for farmers, sportsmen, and all Americans," said Vilsack. "CRP is one of our nation's most valuable and vital conservation efforts, ensuring cleaner air and water, preventing soil erosion, and enhancing economic opportunity in rural America by supporting recreation and tourism.

“With high crop prices, this approach to target our most sensitive lands is essential if we want to maintain the substantial benefits of CRP while ensuring that productive farm lands continue to produce the food and fiber Americans and the world needs."