Millions of acres are set to expire from the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in the coming years, creating a unique opportunity to access valuable land for historically underserved[i] (beginning, minority, and veteran) farmers and ranchers. The CRP Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) offers a special incentive of two years of extra CRP rental payments to owners of land that is returning from CRP back into production who rent or sell their land to underserved producers who commit to using sustainable grazing practices, resource-conserving cropping systems, or transitioning to organic production.
Two years prior to the termination of their contract, a CRP contract holder participating in CRP-TIP can allow an underserved producer to begin making conservation and land improvements (and/or begin the organic certification process) on the land covered by the CRP contract. On or near the date that the CRP contract is terminated, the landowner must sell, enter into a long-term lease, or lease with an option to purchase, some or all of the land covered by CRP to the underserved producer. The participating farmer must then develop and implement a conservation plan on the land that was previously covered by CRP.
On the date that the participating farmer takes possession of the land through ownership or lease, they will have the voluntary option to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) or the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). They will also have the option of enrolling portions of the land back into CRP through the program’s “continuous sign-up” option, which is for conservation buffer practices such as contour grass strips, riparian buffers, filter strips, living snow fences, or grassed waterways. USDA will continue making payments to the CRP contract holder for two additional years after the date that their CRP contract terminates.
CRP-TIP is administered through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is responsible for approving TIP conservation plans and for offering the new farmers and ranchers enrollment opportunities in CSP or EQIP.
The 2018 Farm Bill expands eligibility to all CRP landowners with expiring contracts. Additionally, underserved producers are eligible to participate in CRP-TIP as the recipient to the farm or ranchland transitioning out of CRP, so long as they are not a family member of the CRP contract holder.
While CRP-TIP participation fluctuates with the number of acres expiring from CRP in any given year, the program has proven popular across states with high CRP enrollments. Since the program was first created over a decade ago, over 3,200 producers have used TIP to transition more than 500,000 acres of land to underserved farmers in 29 states.
CRP-TIP has been used to:
Read more about how CRP-TIP has helped connect landowners with underserved farmers looking for farmland on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) blog:
CRP landowners should contact their local FSA office up to two years before the expiration of their CRP contract, but at least a month before the end of their contract, to apply. Interested beginning farmers and other underserved producers looking for land may also wish to contact community-based organizations in their state who administer beginning farmer and/or land-link programs and may be able to help connect them with a landowner in their area. Example programs that underserved producers may find helpful include:
Requests for participation in CRP TIP will be taken on a continuous basis at FSA County Offices. For additional resources, see:
Congress created CRP-TIP in the 2008 Farm Bill and provided $25 million over five years to fund the program. The 2014 Farm Bill increased the mandatory funding level to $33 million over five years, and the 2018 Farm Bill ramps funding up yet again to $50 million through FY 2023. The new farm bill also provides up to $5 million in dedicated funding to improve outreach and technical assistance to connect landowners with interested farmers.
Because the farm bill provides funding for CRP-TIP as a lump sum, it is difficult to predict how much money FSA will spend or how many producers FSA will be able to enroll on an annual basis. In 2018, for example, FSA spent $3.8 million to enroll 382 producers, whereas in 2014, FSA spent $8.5 million to enroll more than 500 producers.
The 2014 Farm Bill modified CRP-TIP slightly by expanding program eligibility to include veterans, as well as beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. The 2018 Farm Bill makes further improvements by expanding eligibility to all CRP contract holders with expiring contracts (rather than just retiring farmers) and allows farmers to count the last two years of the expiring CRP contract towards the three years required for organic certification.
Section 2208 of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 amends Section 1235(f) of the Food Security Act of 1985, to be codified at 16 U.S.C. Section 3835(f).
Section 2501 of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 amends Section 1241 of the Food Security Act of 1985, to be codified at 16 U.S.C. Section 3841.
Last updated in December 2019.
[i] The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) updates the definition of Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers and includes provisions that address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged, beginning, limited resource and veteran farmers and ranchers. The Farm Bill provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing USDA programs and services. More information can be found via USDA here.