June 13, 2011
On Monday, June 13, USDA announced the results of the 41st Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign up. According to the press release, USDA accepted 2.8 million acres for enrollment in the program. The sign up was held from March 14-April 15, 2011
The 2.8 million acres were selected from 38,000 offers totaling 3.8 million acres nationwide. This sign up brings total program enrollment to 29.9 million acres, which is 2.1 million acres below the program’s statutory cap of 32 million acres.
According to USDA, this is sufficient wiggle room to meet requests for continuous enrollment in the Continuous Sign-up CRP Buffer Initiative (CCRP) and for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement program (SAFE), which target CRP acres to projects in which the states partner with USDA in providing incentives and resources to encourage farmers and ranchers to enroll.
NSAC is strong proponent of the cCRP and CREP components and will be working to ensure that there there will continue to be sufficient CRP acreage to meet farmer demand for cCRP and CREP enrollment should FSA propose another CRP general signup.
Under a CRP general sign-up, FSA collects and ranks offers from farmers to enroll highly erodible and environmentally sensitive land in the Program. The land is taken out of production and long-term, resource conserving cover vegetation is established to control soil erosion, improve water and air quality, and enhance wildlife habitat.
USDA selects offers to enroll in CRP based on an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) that considers cost as well as soil erosion, water quality, wildlife enhancement, air quality, and length of benefits. For this round according to USDA, “The minimal acceptable EBI level for this sign-up was 221. The average rental rate per acre for this sign-up is about $48. USDA implemented a number of measures including using additional EBI point incentives for producers to submit cost-effective offers and producer outreach activities to encourage competitive offers on the most environmentally sensitive lands.”
Visit our Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill for more information on the CRP, including CCRP, CREP, and other program components.
Roughly 4.4 million CRP acres are expected to expire at the end of FY2011, with an additional 6.5 million acres expiring at the end of FY2012.
CRP-TIP and CCRP Options
Landowners with expiring contracts who do not plan to try to re-enroll may alternatively sign-up for the CRP-Transition Incentive Program (CRP-TIP) that allows them to rent or sell to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. Read the FSA CRP-TIP fact sheet. Landowners with expiring CRP contracts as well as beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers are encouraged to use USDA’s TIP Net, an online tool to help link retiring farmers with those who want to buy or rent land for their operations. TIP-NET functions like the classifieds section of a newspaper, where you can browse available ads posted by farmers and those looking for land. In order to post an ad, you will need to create an E-Authentication Account.
The CRP-TIP program was championed by NSAC, leading an advocacy drive to get it included in the 2008 Farm Bill. We are pleased with the progress of the program to date, and with the new TIP-Net tool. For more information on the TIP program, visit our TIP entry in the Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill.
Another option for landowners with expiring contracts who plan to put their land back into production is to sign-up to enroll conservation buffers in the continuous sign-up CRP (CCRP) to reduce run-off and provide habitat and continue to collect CRP rental payments on those buffer strips and portions of fields.
Public Access Incentives
USDA also used today’s press release to announce that it had approved eight states and one tribal government to participate in the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VAP-HIP), which provides incentives to landowners to allow public access for hunting, fishing, and other recreational actives on their land.
According to the release, “With today’s VPA-HIP announcement, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming join Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin as states participating in the program. Also participating are the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.
USDA will obligate $17.8 million through the program in 2011, including $4.6 million as part of today’s announcement.
Visit the FSA’s website to learn more about VPA-HIP.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment