January 10, 2017
In a 2011 survey by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) member organization, National Young Farmers Coalition, access to land was ranked as the biggest challenge by 68% of responding farmers. With the average age of American farmers steadily rising, supporting the cultivation and success of our next generation of growers must be prioritized.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has several programs and policies dedicated to supporting beginning farmers and ranchers, and late last month they announced a new opportunity within the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Beginning this week, farmers with the least environmentally sensitive land enrolled in CRP will be allowed to leave the program early without penalty if they agree to transfer that land — by sale or by a lease to own transaction – to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher. Beginning farmers are those with 10 years or less of operating history.
“Normally if a landowner terminates a CRP contract early, they are required to repay all previous payments plus interest,” the USDA press release explains. “The new policy waives this repayment if the land is transferred to a beginning farmer or rancher through a sale or lease with an option to buy.”
If a qualifying landowner chooses to transfer CRP land to a beginning farmer or rancher, the new producer will be given priority for enrollment in the CRP Grasslands Initiative, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
At the time of USDA’s initial announcement late last month, little information was available about eligibility criteria) and priority consideration for enrollment in working lands conservation programs. This blog post provides those additional details.
The following CRP practices are eligible for early exit from the program:
Land is not eligible for early exit from the program if:
Priority Enrollment in Working Lands Programs
Beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who purchase or rent land from landowners who are participating in the early exit opportunity will be given priority enrollment in the CRP Grasslands Initiative, as well as in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP):
Landowners participating in the early exit will receive a pro rata share of their annual CRP payment through the date of the land transfer. Crop base for commodity program purposes will be restored to the land at the beginning of the first full fiscal year following the land transfer. In addition to the EQIP, CSP, and Grasslands options, the new farmer or rancher will be eligible to enroll conservation buffers in the continuous CRP program at the time of the transfer or in the future.
For more information about CRP and to find out if your acreage is eligible for early contract termination, contact your local FSA office or go online at www.fsa.usda.gov/crp. To locate your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov/.