Conservation Reserve Program General Sign-Up Announced
July 27th, 2010
On Monday, July 26, USDA announced that a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up will be held from August 2-27, 2010. This is the 39th sign-up for the CRP according to the somewhat unusual Farm Service Agency (FSA) sign-up counting system. It will be the first general sign-up since 2006.
Under a CRP general sign-up, FSA collects and ranks offers from farmers to enroll highly erodible and environmentally sensitive land in the Program. The land is taken out of production and long-term, resource conserving cover vegetation is established to control soil erosion, improve water and air quality, and enhance wildlife habitat.
With this sign-up, USDA intends to bring the total enrollment land in the CRP closer to 32 million acres, the maximum acreage authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. Land currently not enrolled in CRP may be offered in this sign-up provided all eligibility requirements are met. Additionally, current CRP participants with contracts expiring this fall covering about 4.5 million acres may make new contract offers. Contracts awarded under this sign-up are scheduled to become effective Oct. 1, 2010.
There is currently 31.3 million acres in the CRP, including 4.6 million acres in targeted partial field enrollments through the continuous sign-up CRP (CCRP) and 26.7 million acres in whole field enrollments through general sign-ups. With 4.5 million acres expiring at the end of September, the size of the reserve would fall to 26.8 million acres absent new sign-ups.
The next three years will also see large numbers of CRP contracts expiring — 4.4 million acres in 2011, 6.5 million acres in 2012, and 3.3 million acres in 2013.
USDA has posted the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) for this 39th CRP sign-up, which is used to rank applications for enrollment. The emphasis on this sign-up is the establishment of habitat that will protect wildlife. A new feature of the Index is the inclusion of ranking points for pollinator habitat.
NSAC championed a measure in the 2008 Farm Bill that requires that all USDA conservation programs include provisions to protect pollinators and increase pollinator habitat. In addition, the Index gives the establishment of native plant species a higher priority than the establishment of introduced species.
In addition to the general sign-up, USDA also emphasized that CRP’s continuous sign-up program (CCRP) will be ongoing. Land can be enrolled in the CCRP without going through the EBI-based bidding process; offers are automatically accepted provided they meet the eligibility criteria. Information on the CCRP is available here.
Landowners with expiring contracts who do not plan to try to re-enroll may alternatively sign-up for the CRP-Transition Incentive Program (CRP-TIP) that allows them to rent or sell to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. The FSA CRP-TIP fact sheet is available here.