NSAC's Blog

Conservation Options Communicated to CRP Contract Holders

June 19, 2015

On Wednesday, June 17, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) wrote to all Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participants with contracts that expire this year to tell them about their options going forward.

For the second year in a row, the FSA letter highlighted some excellent conservation choices for farmers and landowners with 10 and 15 year CRP contracts that are coming to an end. As recommended by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), the letter informs expiring contract holders of their options to:

  • Re-enroll conservation buffers and other special, targeted conservation practices in a new 10 or 15 year Continuous CRP (CCRP) contract;
  • Return CRP fields to production but with buffer strips, sensitive land, and pollinator habitat set-aside in new CCRP contracts to create more sustainable production units;
  • Similarly return CRP fields to production while enrolling in new five-year, renewable conservation contracts through the Conservation Stewardship Program, the farm bill’s leading working lands conservation program, in conjunction, possibly with CCRP buffer enrollments.
  • Sell or lease long-term expiring acres to new and beginning farmers who are willing to adopt sustainable farming methods in return for two additional years of CRP payments through the CRP-Transition Incentive Program (TIP);
  • Transition CRP land to organic production with the advantage of not needing the normal three-year transition period to achieve organic certification; or
  • Move expiring CRP land into long-term conservation easements for working grasslands or protected wetlands via the farm bill’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.

NSAC congratulates FSA for providing this information to farmers and landowners. These are all important options that should be carefully considered in the remaining months before contracts expire on September 30, 2015.

NSAC helped develop and champion the CCRP, CSP, and CRP-TIP and welcomes FSA’s support in reminding CRP participants of these options as they contemplate what to do next with their land.

One Year Extension Option

In addition to these options, the June 17 letter also reminds CRP expiring contract holders of the option to extend their contracts for one additional year. The one-year extension option applies to newly expiring ten year contracts as well as older ten year contracts that have previously been extended, but not to expiring 15 year contracts. The sign-up period for one year extensions will run from June 22 through August 28, 2015.

The main reason to consider the one-year extension is if the CRP participant is interested in trying to re-enroll the farm or field in CRP for a new 10 or 15 year period. USDA has announced a general sign-up for the program to be held from December 1, 2015 through February 26, 2016. Extending for a year now would enable contract holders to bid their land back into the program for another round, though their offer would need to score high enough on the environmental benefits index to secure a continuing spot in the program.

Conservation Buffer Enrollments

For those interested in conservation buffer enrollments to help improve water quality or undertake special wildlife habitat practices, there is no need to wait for the general sign-up at the end of the year. The CCRP is a continuous sign-up, so producers and landowners can apply at any time.

Earlier this year, NSAC joined with other farm and conservation organizations on a letter urging FSA to target at least 800,000 acres a year and at least 8 million acres in total for the CCRP. We are in continuing conversations with the agency on these recommendations.


Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs

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