NSAC's Blog

Land Tenure Provision Provides Opportunities for Current and Future Farmers

October 11, 2017

Beginning farmer D’Quinton Robertson with Aaron Lehman of Lehman Farms in Polk City, Iowa. Photo credit: USDA, Preston Keres.

For producers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Land Tenure Provision provides an opportunity to bring land back into production and give a hand up to the next generation. The Land Tenure Provision, which is only available for the least environmentally sensitive CRP acres, incentivizes producers to transfer (by sale or a lease to own transaction) acreage they want to remove from the program to a beginning or socially disadvantaged producer.

By choosing the Land Tenure Provision option offered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), CRP producers can be forgiven the fees and penalties traditionally triggered by an early exit. If a CRP participant de-enrolls acres early and does not participate in the Land Tenure Provision, they would be required to repay all previous payments plus interest.

The Land Tenure Provision option was first made available last year, and in September 2017, FSA announced that they would again offer farmers and ranchers this opportunity. To date, approximately 1,400 acres of land in 13 states has been made available. With land access ranking among the top concerns for beginning farmers and ranchers, we expect that enrollment will continue to grow as this opportunity becomes more widely known.

Greg Fogel, Policy Director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), made these comments in response to the FSA announcement:

“With current enrollment in CRP very close to its 24 million acreage cap, the Land Tenure Provision allows the least environmentally sensitive land enrolled in CRP to leave the program and return to production. It provides an innovative and cost effective way for USDA to then enroll other land with higher conservation value into CRP, while simultaneously addressing land access needs of the next generation.”

The Land Tenure Provision also provides participating beginning farmers with expedited participation in USDA’s working lands conservation programs. If a qualifying landowner chooses to transfer CRP acres to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher, the new producer will be given priority consideration within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the CRP Grasslands Initiative. These programs act as the heart of USDA’s working lands conservation portfolio, and are designed to keep land in active production healthy and thriving.

The reinstatement of the Land Tenure Provision is an acknowledgement by USDA of the importance of access to land and conservation programs for beginning producers. NSAC is pleased that FSA is again offering this opportunity to current and future farmers and ranchers.

Eligibility Criteria

The following CRP practices are eligible for early voluntary exit under the Land Tenure Provision:

  • Establishment of Permanent Introduced Grasses and Legumes (CP1)
  • Establishment of Permanent Native Grasses (CP2)
  • Tree Planting (CP3)
  • Grass Already Established (CP10)
  • Trees Already Established (CP11)

The provision includes guidelines to ensure that the most environmentally sensitive acres are not eligible for early exit from the program. Land is not eligible for early exit from CRP if it is:

  • Located within a federally designated wellhead protection area;
  • Covered by an easement under CRP;
  • Enrolled under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP);
  • Located within 120 feet of a perennial stream or other permanent waterbody;
  • Was transferred prior to the establishment of this provision; or
  • It has an erodibility index (EI) of more than 15.

Priority Enrollment in Working Lands Programs

Under the Land Tenure Provision, an applicant to EQIP or CSP is given a higher priority status for ranking purposes, as well as a higher payment rate. In EQIP, this group of producers is also eligible for advanced payments. CSP participants will be encouraged to adopt activities that continue to maintain or enhance the practices adopted under the previous CRP agreement.

Additionally, if the land meets certain eligibility requirements, it can be enrolled in the CRP Grasslands Initiative. This initiative helps farmers and ranchers to conserve and better utilize their grazing lands. Producers also have the option to enroll small areas back into CRP through the Continuous CRP option for partial field enrollments of conservation buffer strips.

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

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