If you walked into your local Farm Service Agency office earlier this year to sign up to install a grass waterway through the continuous Conservation Reserve Program, in most cases you were told sign-up wasn’t an option. That changed in early June, when USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Signup 51 for the CRP. However, it’s not business as usual if you’ve signed up for CRP practices before, and it’s for a limited time only.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in signing up, or if you have existing practices with contracts expiring soon.
Susan Hovermale provides answers to Indiana Prairie Farmer in this exclusive interview. She is the conservation compliance program chief for Indiana FSA.
Sign-up in the CRP program wasn’t accepted at FSA offices before June 4. Is that correct?
Yes. There is a national cap of 24 million acres which can be in CRP set by Congress. That cap includes general sign-up acres, continuous CRP practices, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program acres and acres in wildlife programs. We were very close to the cap in 2017 and 2018, and they’ve been monitoring it closely.
The only exception was that we could enroll farmers and landowners in certain watersheds targeted by the CREP program for water quality. CREP is carried out jointly with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
What changed when Secretary Perdue made the announcement?
We can accept applications and offers for certain CRP practices no matter where you live in Indiana, whether you are in a CREP watershed or not.
What CRP practices are eligible for enrollment?
They are practices primarily related to improving water quality. Some include grass waterways, filter strips, riparian buffers and shallow-water areas for wildlife. For a complete list of practices, visit your FSA office. New enrollment in general CRP sign-up is not included.
What is the deadline for signing up for these practices?
The enrollment period is relatively short. You must turn in your application and offer by Aug. 17. If a new farm bill isn’t passed or the current bill extended by Sept. 30, we lose our ability to finish contracts. FSA built in a window so that we will have time to process your offer once you apply before Sept. 30.
If someone has an existing contract that will expire soon, can he or she re-enroll?
If you have any type of existing CRP contract which would expire, you can apply for a one-year extension during this sign-up period. The only stipulation is that granting the extension can’t extend the contract beyond 15 years of life. The provision to provide extensions was added so that people have time to see what happens with the farm bill debate, and more time to make decisions about future use of their land now in CRP.
Can producers who come in to sign up for a new continuous CRP practice expect the same incentives as offered in previous sign-ups?
No. This is an important change. You will get cost-share and you still get land rental payment, but there is no extra one-time incentive for signing up. Also, please note that the soil rental rates have been reduced from earlier sign-ups. Soil rental rates vary by county and are posted in each county office.