SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Agricultural producers, as well as private landowners, can now start applying for the Conservation Reserve Program, a land conservation program that aims to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce the loss of wildlife habitat.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the program enables farmers to get a yearly payment in exchange for an agreement to protect environmentally sensitive land.

To protect this land, farmers will reportedly agree to stop agricultural production and ranching in sensitive areas. Contracts for the land enrolled in the program last 10-15 years, USDA states.

The conservation effort, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the U.S.

The following are multiple enrollment options put forth by the Farm Service Agency:

While farmers agree to stop farming on sensitive land, they will also establish “long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as ‘covers’) to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat.”

The program reportedly protects 20 million-plus acres of American topsoil from erosion. The initiative’s goal is to safeguard natural resources throughout the country.

By “reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater; helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams; and is a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country,” USDA states.

Producers and landowners reportedly enrolled more than 5 million acres into the program in 2022.

General signups are from Feb. 27 – April 7.

You may contact your local USDA Service Center for more information.