January 31, 2012
UPDATED February 1, 2012
Since our blog post on January 31, USDA announced that the FY 2012 Conservation Reserve Program general sign up period will be March 12-April 6. According to today’s press release, “contracts on an estimated 6.5 million acres will expire on Sept. 30, 2012” and this sign up will attempt to fill as many of those acres as possible.
Conservation Reserve Program
On Wednesday, February 1, USDA will announce that a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up will be held this year. This is the third general sign-up since 2006. Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) Michael Scuse will make the announcement during a media call tomorrow morning.
According to a media advisory, “over the past three years, USDA has enrolled more than 8 million acres of private working lands on nearly 120,000 farms into CRP. At the same time, CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and two million acres of riparian buffers. Each year, CRP keeps more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorous from flowing into our nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes. Moreover, CRP provides $1.8 billion annually to landowners—dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs.”
USDA has not yet released information about the sign up period, though last year it fell between mid March and mid April.
The last general sign-up enrolled over 2.8 million acres across the country. More detailed information on the 41st sign up is available in an earlier blog post. You can expect more information on this year’s sign up following the press call tomorrow.
The announcement of the general sign-up will increase the projected CRP funding level over the course of the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. It could therefore be a significant with respect to the crafting of the conservation title of the new farm bill.
Conservation Stewardship Program
Also in the news today, the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) at USDA announced that NRCS will have to turn away more than 40 percent of Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applicants this year due to limited program funding.
In an interview with Brownfield Ag News today, the Chief stated, “We were stunned with the size of this…. Over 19 million acres have been offered for sign-up in the Conservation Stewardship Program. We’ll be able to take about 10.8 [million acres], so it’s going to be way over-subscribed, we’re going to have about eight or nine million more acres offered than we can take.”
Typically, NRCS enrolls roughly 12.8 million acres in the program each year, in accordance with the per year level provided by the 2008 Farm Bill. Even under that acreage cap, demand for the program far outstrips supply. The enrollment process will be even more competitive in FY 2012 because funding for the program was reduced by Congress in the FY 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Act.
In the coming weeks, we will publish more details on the FY 2012 CSP sign up, including the number of applicants as well as state level data.
Farmers and ranchers who submitted applications and are thus part of the 19 million acre pool will have between now and sometime in March to complete the CSP Conservation Measurement Tool with their local NRCS staff. The CMT measures environmental benefits and used both to rank the producer proposals and to determine the size of the CSP payment. Applicants with the highest environmental benefit scores will be the ones admitted to the program. NSAC will publish the scores associated with particular conservation activities as soon as NRCS releases that information.
NSAC’s Farmers Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program can help producers sort through some of the details of the program as they move through the steps of the enrollment process.