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USDA to Begin 4-week General Signup for Conservation Reserve Program

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The U.S. Department of Agriculture will open a four-week general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program on May 20.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plans to make the formal announcement Saturday at the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Minneapolis. He says in a statement to The Associated Press that CRP was vital in later summer's drought. He says it protected sensitive land from erosion, while emergency haying and grazing on CRP lands provided critical livestock feed and forage.

Around 27 million acres are enrolled in the CRP, a voluntary program that pays farmers to keep environmentally sensitive land out of production, typically for 10 to 15 years. The goals are to improve water quality, control erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. Contracts on about 3.3 million acres expire Sept. 30.