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Johanns: USDA Not Lifting CRP Release Penalties

After Friday's USDA report predicted a big increase in corn acres, Johanns says land doesn't need to come out of the Conservation Reserve Program in order to meet the demand for corn.

With rising demand for corn due to ethanol production, many producers wondered if USDA Secretary Mike Johanns would allow early releases from the Conservation Reserve Program in order to boost corn production. However, Friday's USDA report, which indicates that farmers intend to plant 90.5 million acres of corn this year, has convinced USDA to hold off on penalty-free early releases - for now.

"Today's report on planting intentions suggests that market forces are inspiring changes that will help to meet the high demand for corn," Johanns said in a statement Friday.

"In light of this information, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will not offer penalty-free early releases from Conservation Reserve Program contracts at this time. As circumstances exist today, I would not anticipate a change in this policy in 2007.

"At the same time, we are not planning to conduct a general CRP signup in 2007. We have offered new general CRP signups only four of the past seven years. Although we have assumed for budget purposes that there would be no new general CRP enrollments during the next two years, I am open to the possibility of new enrollments for 2008.

"I want to emphasize, acres under continuous CRP signup, such as filter strips, riparian buffers and others, are not impacted by general signup decisions. Enrollment of acres that qualify for continuous signup is ongoing. In fact, last week, USDA announced our intention to enroll 500,000 acres in new continuous CRP contracts to address the specific habitat needs of fish or wildlife, including at-risk species, on a state by state basis.

"While I believe today's report on planting intentions will help to ease concern about our corn supply, I will continue to closely monitor the situation. I will not hesitate in the future to make adjustments to USDA programs if needed to achieve a balance in the agricultural sector."

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