The National Grain and Feed Association announced this week its release of a pair of letters to the leaders of the congressional agriculture committees urging that they build upon the Conservation Reserve Program provisions adopted by the House Agriculture Committee when resuming consideration of a new five-year farm bill.
The letters – one signed by eight national agribusiness trade associations and the other by 20 state and regional grain and feed associations affiliated with the NGFA – commended both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees for including important reforms to the CRP in their respective versions of the 2012 farm bill.
But the groups signaled a preference for the House Agriculture Committee's version of the CRP language because it would reduce more expeditiously the current 32-million-acre maximum cap to 25 million acres, as well as require that the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer producers and landowners a one-time opportunity to release, without penalty, CRP acres that can be farmed in an environmentally sustainable way before prior to expiration. The House language would require that acres be enrolled in the CRP for at least five years before being eligible for release penalty-free prior to contract expiration.
While stating that the House CRP language was "extremely timely and urgently needed," the organizations urged Congress to consider extending the mandatory CRP penalty-free early out language to apply to additional fiscal years beyond 2013.
The letters were delivered to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., as well as to the ranking members of both committees – Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., respectively.
"The importance of allowing productive farmland enrolled in the CRP to be restored to production without harsh economic penalties certainly has been magnified by this summer's drought conditions that have gripped America's most important crop-production regions," the letters stated. "CRP reforms will help make it possible to access the primary single remaining source of (productive) agricultural land…and focus scarce conservation dollars to protect working farmland and water resources."
The letters also warned that given current weather projections, the 2013 growing season again could be dryer and warmer than normal with limited opportunity to rebuild tight grain and oilseed stocks.
"We strongly believe that productive CRP acres should be allowed to be brought back into production immediately in response to the devastating drought and tight supply conditions affecting our nation's food and feed supplies," the organizations wrote. "Congress has an opportunity to sustainably update the CRP to reflect the new realities of the dynamic, growing demand for U.S. agricultural commodities around the world."
The letters were signed the following organizations: NGFA, Agribusiness Association of Iowa, Agribusiness Council of Indiana/Indiana Grain and Feed Association, Agricultural Retailers Association, American Feed Industry Association, California Grain and Feed Association, Grain and Feed Association of Illinois, Kansas Grain & Feed Association, Michigan Agri-Business Association, Midsouth Grain Association, Minnesota Grain and Feed Association, Missouri Agribusiness Association, Montana Grain Elevator Association, National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, National Oilseed Processors Association, North American Millers Association, Nebraska Grain and Feed Association, North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, Ohio AgriBusiness Association, Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association, Rocky Mountain Agri-business Association, South Dakota Grain and Feed Association, Southeastern Grain and Feed Association, Tennessee Feed and Grain Association, Texas Grain and Feed Association, The Fertilizer Institute, Wisconsin Agri-Business Association Inc.