U.S. Department of Agriculture pays land owners not to develop property

AMARILLO, TX - Land owners in the Panhandle can now be earning yearly income just for promising the U.S. Department of Agriculture not to develop their property and it's all part of a nationwide conservation project.

If you have acres of land just sitting around and your not planning on selling or developing it, the USDA is encouraging you to invest it in one of their conservation programs.

Is this a bargain or bust?

That's the million dollar question we took to the USDA and AgriLife Extension office.

Getting paid to do absolutely nothing sounds almost too good to be true.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week a new conservation reserve program offering financial incentives for farmers and land owners who sign up.

"It doesn't matter if it rains or not and it doesn't matter if crop prices go up or down or how much the cost of fertilizer is," Dede Jones with Texas AgriLife says, "The owner is guaranteed a set amount of money every single year."

We're told land owners are looking at roughly anywhere from $25 to $45 of income per year, per acre.

And, you're not signing over any title rights.

Instead, you're signing a commitment.

By leaving your property just the way it is, you're protecting any natural resources underneath the surface and saving millions of acres of topsoil from erosion.

Here's the catch---Prepare to sign a 10-year contract.

Jones says you should consider the following:

*Do you want to break out your land for crop production and take advantage of the potentially high commodity prices in the near future?

*Would you consider leaving your land in the conservation reserve program and just have a guaranteed amount of money every year?

The USDA says it's fairly easy to take advantage of the program.

"Most of the land here in the Texas Panhandle qualifies for this conservation program because they consider this highly erodible in most cases," Adam Acker with the USDA Farm Service Agency here in Amarillo said.

The program is made possible through the U.S. Farm Bill which is set to expire at the end of this year.

No word yet on if the conservation incentive will be renewed after that.

Sign-up for the CRP program begins March 12.