Farmers with expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts may now re-enroll in certain CRP continuous sign-up practices or, if eligible, select a one-year contract extension.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency also is accepting offers from those who want to enroll for the first time in CRP, one of the country’s largest conservation programs. FSA’s 52nd sign-up for CRP runs through Aug. 23.
“Agricultural producers with expiring CRP contracts have set aside land to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife and boost soil health for at least a decade,” says Bill Northey, USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation. “We want to make sure they — and their neighbors who may not have a CRP contract — know they have opportunities within CRP to continue their valuable contribution to our country’s conservation successes.”
Sign-up for continuous CRP underway
FSA stopped accepting offers last fall for the CRP continuous sign-up when 2014 Farm Bill authority expired. The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized the program this past December, and FSA has analyzed the bill’s language and determined that a limited sign-up prioritizing water-quality practices furthers conservation goals and makes sense for producers as FSA works to fully implement the program.
This year’s CRP continuous sign-up includes such practices as grass waterways, filter strips, riparian buffers, wetland restoration and others. Visit USDA for a list of practices approved for this sign-up.
Continuous sign-up enrollment contracts last for 10 to 15 years. Rental rates are set at 90% of 2018 rates. Incentive payments are not offered for these practices.
“We have water quality practices available for sign-up, including buffer strips, bioreactors, wetlands and filter strips, too,” says Amanda DeJong, state director for FSA in Iowa. “If producers are interested, they have until Aug. 23 to sign up. However, I recommend you visit your local FSA office as soon as possible if you want to enroll or re-enroll. CRP can be complex program. Get in the door as soon as possible to work with FSA and NRCS to get your CRP plan in place.”
Letters are in the mail to all producers with expiring CRP contracts, describing possible options, DeJong says. A one-year extension is being offered to existing CRP participants, with expiring CRP contracts of 14 years or less that have practices not eligible for re-enrollment under this CRP sign-up.
Alternatively, producers with expiring contracts may have the option to enroll in the Transition Incentives Program, which provides two additional annual rental payments on the condition the land is sold or rented to a beginning farmer or rancher, or a member of a socially disadvantaged group.
“FSA has been doing this for a couple of years now — allowing a one-year extension of CRP contracts,” DeJong notes. “There’s a nationwide acreage cap on the number of acres CRP can accept, and we’ve been near that cap in recent years, so FSA has been allowing a one-year extension of contracts.”
CRP continuous CREP sign-up
This sign-up also enables producers to sign up under existing Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program agreements. CREP is part of CRP and targets high-priority conservation concerns identified by a state, and federal funds are supplemented with non-federal funds to address those concerns. Download this fact sheet to learn more.
FSA is still planning a CRP general sign-up in December, with a CRP Grasslands sign-up to follow. Producers who extend their contracts may be eligible for one of these sign-up types or another continuous sign-up in the future, says De Jong.
How much acreage will be allowed to enter the general CRP sign-up in December? “I haven’t seen where the CRP program is at today with regard to being close to the acreage cap,” she says. “But I know the life of the 2018 Farm Bill runs through 2023 and the acreage cap continues to rise, up to 27 million acres in CRP nationwide. So, my assumption is as we go forward year after year we are going to have decent-size sign-ups because we have an increasing acreage cap each year.”
Does FSA have a guideline for setting rental rates USDA pays for CRP? “Yes,” DeJong says. “On continuous practices, which is the sign-up we have going on currently, the law sets those rates at 90% of the NASS average rental rate for the county. When we get into the general sign-up in December, those rental rates will be 85% of the NASS average rental rates.”
Producers interested in applying for CRP continuous practices, including those under existing CREP agreements, or who want to extend their contract, should contact their USDA service center by Aug. 23.