South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Bill Even says a new Conservation Reserve Program transition option that is expected to be announced in January might be a good deal for South Dakota and North Dakota beginning farmers and ranchers and CRP landowners.
The option offers two years of extra rental payments to landowners who rent or sell land coming out of CRP to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.
The renters or buyers will have to use resource-conserving cropping or grazing systems, or transition the land to organic production.
Any qualified beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is eligible to participate, except for family members of the retiring owner or operator of the CRP ground in question.
The option was part of the 2008 Farm Bill, but USDA didn't immediately implement it due to the debate over the impact of putting CRP land back into production might have on the environment and wildlife habitat.
Martha Noble, senior policy associate for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, says the group has been told the option will likely be announced in January.
"We see the transition option as win-win," Noble says. "The incentive to the landowner of two extra years of CRP payments is relatively modest. In return, beginning and disadvantaged farmers will have an opportunity to start or expand their farm or ranch. And many of the environmental values and wildlife habitat will continue to be protected."