WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced that beginning Oct. 2, USDA is issuing $1.8 billion in Conservation Reserve Program rental payments to participating producers for fiscal year 2007.

The payments allow producers to earn an average of $4,143 per farm enrolled in the program.

"The Conservation Reserve Program works to conserve and preserve the soil, water and wildlife resources of our nation," said Johanns. "These payments represent an investment in the nation's land that will pay dividends in the form of a cleaner environment today and for future generations."

Producers holding about 739,000 contracts on 425,000 farms will receive an average of $48.88 per acre. The number of contracts is higher than the number of farms because producers may have multiple contracts on a single farm.

Included in the totals are 331,000 contracts (3.6 million acres) for CRP's continuous sign-up and 408,000 contracts (32.4 million acres) for general sign-up. Under continuous sign-up, producers may enroll high priority conservation practices such as filter strips and riparian buffers at any time without competition.

The announcement does not include rental payments for 1 million acres recently enrolled under CRP general sign-up 33, held from March 27 to April 28, 2006. Rental payments for this spring's general sign-up acreage will be issued starting in October 2007.

Currently, enrollment stands at more than 36 million acres, making CRP the largest public-private partnership for conservation and wildlife habitat in the United States. This voluntary program helps agricultural producers safeguard environmentally sensitive land. Producers enroll in CRP and plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve water quality, control soil erosion and enhance habitats for waterfowl and wildlife. In return, USDA provides producers with rental payments. CRP contract duration is from 10 to 15 years.

USDA issues other CRP payments throughout the year. These payments include a 50 percent expense reimbursement for establishing cover as well as incentive payments for enrolling eligible high priority conservation practices. The fiscal year 2007 projections for these payments are $116 million for expense reimbursements and $79 million for incentive payments.

The table lists acreage enrollments by state, number of contracts, number of farms, acres enrolled and CRP projected rental payments for fiscal year 2007.

For more information on CRP producers should contact the local FSA office or visit FSA's Web site.

SOURCE: USDA news release.