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The USDA will hold a four-week general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program from March 12 to April 6, Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) Michael Scuse announced today.
The Department has no goal for acres it wants enrolled but Scuse said it hopes to stay as close as possible to the 32 million acres currently authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. Right now, the U.S. has about 30 million acres enrolled in the long-term land retirement program but 6.5 million acres are set to come out of the program in September. That’s the largest amount coming out of the CRP at one time for the program, he said.
“We’re attempting to re-enroll as many acres as we possibly can back into the program,” Scuse told reporters.
He said that county Farm Service Agency offices will be mailing notices of the signup this month to landowners who have land in the CRP.
“We urge interested producers to maximize their environmental benefits and to make cost effective offers to us,” he said.
Scuse said it’s too early to speculate on what the average rental rate will be after USDA takes bids from landowners. But with land prices rising during a time of high commodity prices, “we believe there will be an increase in rental rates,” he said.
Besides considering rental rate offers from landowners, USDA also uses an Environmental Benefits Index to rank eligibility for the program.
Scuse said the EBI will not change from the previous general CRP signup. The CRP is aimed at environmentally sensitive land. Benefits from enrolling land in the 10- to 15-year program include creating wildlife habitat, improving water quality, reducing soil erosion and improving air quality by lowering wind erosion.
More information is available at county FSA offices and online.