Farmers and ranchers can re-enroll or extend their Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts expiring in 2007 through 2010, according to a Wednesday announcement made by Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.
"Balance is the key to any good conservation plan. So we're offering farmers and ranchers re-enrollments and contract extensions to take full advantage of the environmental benefits of this program," says Johanns. "Re-enrolling and extending these contracts is part of the President's plan to fully use the nearly 40 million acres of CRP to improve water quality as well as wildlife habitat."
In order to determine who might be able to re-enroll or extend their CRP contract, USDA's Farm Service Agency will use the Environmental Benefits Index that was in place when the contracts were first written. The EBI is a measuring system that assigns point scores to the contracts and then nationally ranks all CRP land enrollment offers. Several environmental outcomes factor into EBI point scores such as improving wildlife habitat, water quality, and air quality and reducing soil erosion.
The EBI scores are based upon a 100 percentile that is divided into five ranking tiers. In the first tier, CRP producers ranking in the top 20% of the EBI can re-enroll their land in new contracts and farmers and ranchers with wetlands in this ranking can receive contract terms of 10- to 15- years.
CRP producers ranking within the second tier, between the 61-80%, can extend their contracts for five years. Farmers and ranchers ranking within the third tier, 41-60%, can extend their CRP contracts by four years. Those ranking in the fourth tier, between 21-40%, can receive 3-year extensions. And those contracts ranking in the fifth tier of the 20% of CRP producers can extend their contracts by two years.
In spring 2006, FSA will write to CRP producers with contracts expiring Sept. 30, 2007, to discuss whether those contracts are eligible for re-enrollment or extension. Farmers and ranchers will confirm their contract interests at that point and a compliance check will be necessary.
Fifteen-year contracts expiring Sept. 30, 2007, are not eligible for re-enrollment or extension. During the next several months FSA will update the CRP rental rates to better reflect local market rates for cropland on new contract re-enrollments and will review cropland enrollment limits on a county-by-county basis.