USDA accepts more CRP acres
USDA recently announced it would accept 3.9 million acres nationwide into its popular program that pays farmers and landowners for taking environmentally sensitive land out of crop production.
USDA says the 3.9 million acres will bring total enrollment in its Conservation Reserve Program to about 29 million acres as of Oct. 1, 2012, the beginning of the government’s 2013 fiscal year.
Iowa will see more land in CRP in 2013 with 99,684 acres added, more than offsetting the 86,837 that will come out on Sept. 30, 2012, according to USDA figures.
An estimated 29.6 million acres nationally are enrolled in the reserve, with contracts for 6.5 million acres set to expire Sept. 30 of this year. That figure would still remain below the 32 million-acre cap allowed by Congress for CRP.
USDA held a general signup for CRP this spring, the 43rd general CRP sign-up since the program was established 26 years ago. USDA received nearly 48,000 offers on more than 4.5 million acres of land during the five-week 2012 sign-up period from farmers and ranchers across the United States. Offers to enroll land in the CRP are examined by USDA for benefits in reduced soil erosion and improved air quality, water purity, wildlife habitat and other long-term advantages.
Are cuts in CRP coming?
Rental payments will average $51.24 per acre nationwide. The CRP program is popular with conservation groups and hunters in states such as Iowa and South Dakota because the idled land provides wildlife habitat. But livestock producers have pushed for the land reserve to be reduced, in order to increase crop production and potentially reduce the cost of feed.
The new 2012 Farm Bill proposed by the U.S. Senate suggests reducing the U.S. CRP acreage level gradually to 25 million acres. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, which expires later this year, USDA is allowed to enroll up to 32 million acres in the program. USDA is operating under the existing cap, unless it is changed by the new farm bill.
Some groups have proposed even more drastic cuts. The National Oilseed Processors Association recently said USDA should cut the number of acres in the reserve to 15 million acres because of low soybean stocks. “We need to plant more acres to row crops now,” says David Hovermale, vice president of NOPA. “Congress has the opportunity to put meaningful reforms in the new farm bill and to focus very scarce conservation dollars on working farmlands.”
NOPA says almost $2 billion goes toward CRP rental payments each year, federal funds they say could be better used elsewhere by USDA. Dan Wrinn, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited, says “efforts to cut the CRP are unfortunate, but it’s understandable given the current effort in Congress to reduce federal spending. We’re disappointed, but with the current budget situation, we know there are going to be cuts.”
Source: USDA, NOPA, DU
This article published in the July, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.