A general sign-up program for the Conservation Reserve Program will be held from mid-March through Mid-April, announces Montana Farm Service Agency Executive Director Bruce Nelson.
During the sign-up period, Montana farmers and ranchers may offer eligible land for CRP's competitive general program at their county FSA offices.
"Over the past 25 years, CRP's benefits have continued to grow," says Nelson.
The program has resulted in cleaner water, improved air quality, better wildlife habitat and a "huge" reduction in soil erosion, he adds.
Through the 2008 Farm Bill, CRP is authorized for a maximum enrollment of 32 million acres in the U.S. USDA estimates that contracts on 3.3 million to 6.5 million acres are scheduled to expire annually by 2014.
Land currently not enrolled in CRP may be offered in this sign-up provided all eligibility requirements are met. Current CRP participants with contracts expiring this fall may make new contract offers.
Contracts awarded under this signup are scheduled to become effective on Oct. 1.
In Montana, 2.9 million acres of the state's 18,721,501 crop land acres are currently enrolled in the CRP program, says Nelson. Of those CRP acres, 498,661 are scheduled to expire on Sept. 30; 696,523 on Sept. 30, 2012, and 638,841 on Sept. 20, 2013.
As administrator of the CRP program, FSA will evaluate and rank eligible CRP offers using an Environmental Benefits Index that assists in calculating the environmental benefits to be gained from the contract.
The EBI consists of five environmental factors: wildlife, water, soil, air and enduring benefits. Cost factors are also entered into the equation.
In addition to the general sign-up, FSA's CRP Continuous Sign-Up Program is on-going. Continuous acres represent the most environmentally desirable and sensitive land.
For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov and vies Conservation Programs.