USDA unveils new conservation program

In this photo taken Oct. 31, 2011, central Illinois farmer Dale Hadden climbs onto a combine on the family farm near Jacksonville, Ill. Hadden's farming operation is doing especially well this year for any of a number of reasons and will use this as an opportunity to funnel some of these profits into new machinery and paying off some land. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

In this photo taken Oct. 31, 2011, central Illinois farmer Dale Hadden climbs onto a combine on the family farm near Jacksonville, Ill. Hadden's farming operation is doing especially well this year for any of a number of reasons and will use this as an opportunity to funnel some of these profits into new machinery and paying off some land. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture will unveil a plan that will offer financial incentives for farmers to enroll up to 1 million new acres of grasslands and wetlands into the conservation reserve program.

The government pays farmers to idle about 30 million acres of erodible land. However, contracts on about 6.5 million acres expire Sept. 30. With prices for crops such as corn and soybeans so high, there's concern farmers may put more of the land into production to increase profitability.

In a plan The Associated Press obtained ahead of its Friday release, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce increased incentives to enroll land for wetlands and bird habitat.

USDA pays farmers about $1.8 billion a year for the CRP program to reduce erosion and farm chemical runoff into waterways.


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