When the USDA told Farm Service Agency officials they could go ahead with Continuous CRP sign-up, now under way, they also told them they could hold a sign-up for traditional Conserve Reserve Program acres.
The Conservation Reserve Program was started with the help of former Indiana Senator Richard Luger in the mid 1980's. The goal was to convert some of the most marginal land for crop production in the U.S. in to semi-permanent fields of grass or permanent planting of trees. Contract time varied between 10 and 15 years per contract.
The sign-up for this general program will continue through June 14. It is based on a bid process and farms that are accepted will be notified after that date. Julia Wickard, executive director of the Indiana Farm Service Agency, notes that some farms roll out each year. In most cases they are eligible to be enrolled again, as long as the producer goes back through the sign-up process.
Both the Conservation Reserve Program, opened this week, and the continuous CRP, opened last week, had been suspended while Congress and USDA sorted through the sequester process at the federal level.
At one time, Wickard expected the reduction in funds coming along with the sequester process would make it necessary to furlough employees for few hours per day. However, now it appears that at least through the end of fiscal 2013, that won't be necessary.
However, the executive director still has a lot of questions which need answers. She doesn't know if it will be necessary to combine offices, as she once thought.
'It's very difficult to plan when you don't know what type of budget and how much money you will have to work with from day to day," she concludes.