NSAC's Blog

CRP Land Transfer Option Provides Opportunity for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

January 10, 2017

The CRP early exit option will help to facilitate the transfer of the least environmentally sensitive CRP lands to beginning farmers and ranchers. Photo credit: USDA.

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.

Eligibility Criteria

The following CRP practices are eligible for early exit from the program:

  • Establishment of Permanent Introduced Grasses and Legumes;
  • Establishment of Permanent Native Grasses;
  • Tree Planting;
  • Grass Already Established; and
  • Trees Already Established.

Land is not eligible for early exit from the program if:

  • It is being treated with any CRP practices other than those listed above. This includes practices such as riparian buffers, filterstrips, pollinator habitat, and duck nesting habitat, among many others.
  • It is located within an average of 120 feet of a perennial stream or other permanent water body.
  • It has an erodibility index (EI) of more than 15.
  • It is enrolled under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
  • It meets other ineligibility criteria, as outlined in the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) notice to states.

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):

  • For EQIP, participating applicants will receive a higher payment rate and can receive up to 50 percent of their federal cost share in advance of installing agreed upon conservation practices.
  • For both CSP and EQIP applications from participating farmers and ranchers will be ranked before other applications.
  • For CRP Grasslands, when acres become available under the 2 million acre cap established by the 2014 Farm Bill, participating producers will be enrolled automatically so long as they meet eligibility criteria.

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/.

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

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