"The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is the largest federal, private-land retirement program in the United States. The program provides financial compensation for landowners to voluntarily remove land from agricultural production for an extended period (typically 10 to 15 years) for the benefit of soil and water quality improvement and wildlife habitat. The program was first authorized in the Food Security Act of 1985 (1985 farm bill, P.L. 99-198), initially as both a supply management tool for removing land from agricultural production, thus lowering commodity supply and potentially raising prices, and for providing environmental benefits. Currently, close to 25.6 million acres are enrolled in the program with total funding of approximately $2 billion annually. Acres enrolled in CRP have shown a number of positive environmental benefits including reduced soil erosion; water quality improvements through vegetative cover, buffer strips, and reduced fertilizer application; and wildlife population improvement from increased habitat. While a number of natural resource improvements are attributed to the program, the program contains a number of controversial elements as well, including the economic and environmental effect of permitted activities, such as haying and grazing on CRP acres and the reduction of enrolled acres due to high crop prices and farm bill reauthorization. Program and funding authority for CRP was reauthorized and extended through FY2018 by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 farm bill, P.L. 113-79)."
CRS Report for Congress, R42783