Good news in the fight against soil erosion comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is that more than 22.1 million acres of cropland has been placed in the Conservation Reserve, the government's program which encourages farmers to set aside erosion-prone land in exchange for government payments.

Milton Hertz, administrator of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, anticipates that farmer interest in the program will continue, and that the goal of 40 to 45 million acres enrolled by the end of 1990 will be met.In Ferbruary, farmers bid another 4.5 million acres but it won't be known until May whether the USDA will accept the amounts the farmers seek to get paid in "rent" from the government.

The Conservation Reserve should not be viewed as a government giveaway program for farmers. It is a vital way of getting soil and water erosion in check.

Producer participation means more soil left on the ground to keep the land productive and that keeps food prices down.

It means less topsoil washing onto roads and gullies, and into streams and rivers where it clogs waterways and creates flooding downstream. Water quality is better. Wildlife habitats are increased. Outdoor sports and recreational opportunities are improved.

The Conservation Reserve is one of the best programs the nation has going for it. Farmers should be encouraged to keep their interest in it.