U.S. landowners have only a three-week window to submit offers to enroll land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). A general sign-up for the CRP program begins March 27 and ends April 14, according to USDA's Farm Service Agency.
"CRP protects fragile cropland from erosion and improves the nation's natural resources," says Brian Wolford, executive director of the Nebraska Farm Service Agency state office. "By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, the program safeguards surface water and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams, many of which are used for drinking water supplies."
CRP participants voluntarily remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production by entering into long-term contracts for 10 to 15 years. In exchange, participants receive annual rental payments and a payment of up to 50% of the cost of establishing conservation practices.
The 2002 Farm Bill capped CRP enrollment at 39.2 million acres nationally. Currently, 35.9 million acres are enrolled. "Since there is limited acreage available for enrollment," Wolford says, "competition is going to be tight."
Landowners are encouraged to work with the staff at their local Farm Service Agency offices to maximize the environmental benefits of their CRP contract offers.
USDA will use the "environmental benefits index" to rank the acreage offered. The index is based on costs and five environmental factors: soil erosion, water quality, enduring benefits, air quality and wildlife enhancement.
Offers accepted under this sign-up will become effective Oct. 1, 2006.
Detailed information on CRP and the general sign-up is available at local Farm Service Agency offices and on agency's Web site at www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crpinfo.htm.