The continuous conservation reserve program practices are again open for sign-up at the Farm Service Agency offices around Indiana. They include filter strips, field borders, grass waterways and other practices that help control erosion and improve water quality. If you have a project you want to do, now is the time to visit your local FSA office and consider signing up for the program.
This sign-up is indefinite and should last through the rest of USDA's fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30, says Julia Wickard, executive director of Indiana FSA.
Normally, continuous CRP signup is year round, as the name implies. However, there are funding cycles. This time, it was the sequester controversy that caused FSA to shut down CRP sign-up until further notice. That was lifted last week, and sign up for these practices was opened up again.
Farmers who want to consider putting in grass waterways or other practices that fall under continuous CRP should sign up as soon as possible, Wickard says. She's not yet sure of the dollar amount that Indiana will receive to restart these programs, but she hopes to know soon.
Filter strips are typically areas left along ditches and natural watercourses, preferably on both sides, that are subsequently planted to grass, to help catch sediment and the nutrients the sediment holds before it enters a waterway. The width can vary depending upon the project, although there is a minimum amount to participate in the FSA programs.
Grass waterways are more common, and have been sued for years, but still fit many situations. Other practices may also qualify if they're geared toward reducing soil erosion and protecting water quality.
Expect technicians to be busy designing plans for various practices soon. Some people had applications ready and were simply waiting for these programs to open again. It was not clear until recently whether there would be enough money allotted to FSA to operate the program through the end of the fiscal year.