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What’s at Stake: Support for the Next Generation of Farmer-Stewards

November 27, 2012


Due to Congressional inaction, the 2008 Farm Bill has expired without a new bill or extension to take its place.  In the absence of a farm bill, numerous innovative programs that invest in sustainable agriculture systems are shut down and left without mandatory funding.  This is the eighth post in our 10-week “What’s at Stake?” series that highlights expired farm bill programs and what that means for farmers and communities throughout the country.


When Taylor Grabanksi, a 23-year-old beginning farmer in Walsh County, North Dakota, heard about the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) he knew this was a program he wanted to check out.  Taylor grew up on a farm near Inkster, N.D., and has wanted to farm all his life.  Unfortunately, the toughest thing to get his hands on to expand his farming operation was land.  That’s where Rose Potulny, a 92-year-old Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participant, came into play.

Potulny and her late husband Victor farmed up to 18 quarter sections of land in their day.  Eventually, the Potulnys rented most of their land to Taylor’s dad and uncle and the remainder of the land went into the CRP program.  With her CRP acreage expiring, CRP-TIP was a win-win option for Potulny and Taylor.  The program allowed them to work out a mutually acceptable rental agreement, since Potulny will continue to receive two years of additional CRP rental payments for renting the 400 acres of expiring CRP land to Taylor for at least five years.

[Note: The above anecdote and photograph of CRP-TIP participants Taylor Grabanksi and Rose Potulny were first published here by USDA]

Over the next several years, millions of CRP acres will expire.  Given that the average American farmer is 57-years-old, and that the fastest growing group of farm operators are those 65 years and older, it is no surprise that retiring farmers hold many of these expiring CRP contracts.  At the same time, high barriers of entry, such as limited access to land, discourage many would-be producers from entering agriculture.  CRP-TIP aims to bring these two populations together to help beginning farmers acquire land and ensure that natural resources are conserved on expiring CRP acres.

We previously profiled one of the most important beginning farmer programs–the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP)–which expired in September with the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill.  Like BFRDP, CRP-TIP aims to help the next generation of farmers get into farming sustainably.  However, both programs have no farm bill funding baseline beyond 2012.

CRP-TIP Conserves Natural Resources and Helps the Next Generation of Farmers

The 2008 Farm Bill provided $25 million to encourage landowners to transfer land from an expiring CRP contract to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher to return the land to production for sustainable grazing or crop production, with additional measures to encourage good conservation.  Retiring landowners are provided an additional two years of Conservation Reserve Program payments on land that is transferred to a new farmer or rancher under the CRP-TIP.

One year prior to the termination of a CRP contract, a CRP owner or operator who is participating in CRP-TIP can allow a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher to begin to make conservation and land improvements and/or begin the organic certification process on the land covered by the CRP contract.  On or near the date that the CRP contract is terminated, the retired or retiring owner or operator will sell, enter into a long-term lease, or lease with an option to purchase, some or all of the land that was covered by CRP to the participating beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher.

When the beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher takes possession of the land, they then have the option to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program or the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.  They also have the option of re-enrolling portions of the land into the CRP through the “continuous sign-up” CRP which is for conservation buffer practices such as contour grass strips, riparian buffers, or grassed waterways.

CRP-TIP by the Numbers

In February 2012, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that it had allocated all the CRP-TIP funding provided by the 2008 Farm Bill.  Due to extremely high demand and limited funding, FSA stopped accepting contract offers at that time.  The program had 1,626 contracts enrolled or pending enrollment, covering 260,523 acres of land in 26 states.

Not surprisingly, the top ten states for number of CRP-TIP contracts include most of the top CRP states in general:

State

Number of Contracts

North Dakota

346

Kansas

219

Montana

206

Nebraska

145

Minnesota

117

Missouri

94

Iowa

84

Kentucky

59

Texas

49

Pennsylvania / Idaho

37 / 37 (tied)

Status of Funding for CRP-TIP

The 2008 Farm Bill provided $25 million in mandatory funding as a single lump sum amount for the entire five-year cycle of the bill.  The program, however, proved extremely popular, and FSA quickly ran out of available funds.

As of October 1, 2012, both funding and program authorization officially expired, leaving the future of CRP-TIP in a very untenable position.  Fortunately, both the Senate and the House of Representatives took action to fund the program in their versions of the 2012 Farm Bill.  Unfortunately, the House version of the bill merely extends funding at the 2008 Farm Bill level.  While the Senate version of the bill takes a major step forward by doubling funding to $50 million, this is still significantly less than the $80 million that the Congressional Budget Office estimates is necessary to meet demand for the program over the full farm bill cycle.  $50 million should be sufficient to meet demand in 2013 and 2014.

What’s Next for CRP-TIP?

It is critical that Congress extend authority and provide funding for CRP-TIP in a reauthorization or an extension of the farm bill.  Now that authority for the program has expired and 2008 Farm Bill funding has been fully utilized, the program has come to a screeching halt right at the worst time, as millions of CRP acres expire.

CRP-TIP is an extremely valuable resource for beginning farmers as well as for retiring landowners seeking to help foster the next generation of farmers and stewards of the land.  We are encouraged that both the House and Senate recognized the importance of CRP-TIP by providing new money for the program in both versions of the farm bill.  The time is now for Congress to finalize a farm bill agreement, or pass a farm bill extension, with at least $50 million for CRP-TIP.  Doing so will create jobs, lower barriers to entry into farming, and promote continued resource conservation lands coming out of CRP.


Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Farm Bill


One Response to “What’s at Stake: Support for the Next Generation of Farmer-Stewards”

  1. […] a farm bill extension with renewed funding for expiring programs).  We have just published the eighth in a series of ten posts in our “What’s At Stake?” […]

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