WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2012—USDA will conduct a four-week Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general signup, beginning on March 12 and ending on April 6.

Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) Michael Scuse announced the signup timeline today, encouraging farmers to “re-enroll as many acres as possible back into the program.”

"CRP is an important program for protecting our most environmentally sensitive lands from erosion and sedimentation, and for ensuring the sustainability of our groundwater, lakes, rivers, ponds and streams,” Scuse said. “As always, we expect strong competition to enroll acres into CRP, and we urge interested producers to maximize their environmental benefits and to make cost-effective offers."

Currently, about 30 million acres are enrolled in CRP; and contracts on an estimated 6.5 million acres will expire on Sept. 30, 2012.

"The general signup announcement reflects the reality that as some landowners are leaving the reserve, others are equally interested in enrolling in it,” said National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Policy Director Ferd Hoefner.  “We urge farmers to consider the March 12 through April 6 whole field signup, and also to remember that there is a continuous CRP signup open year-round for those who wish to enroll conservation buffers on small portions of fields in the program."

Offers for CRP contracts are ranked according to the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI), which will remain the same as the last general signup. USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) collects data for each of the EBI factors based on the relative environmental benefits for the land offered. Each eligible offer is ranked in comparison to all other offers and selections made from that ranking. FSA uses the following EBI factors to assess the environmental benefits for the land offered:

-Wildlife habitat benefits resulting from covers on contract acreage;

-Water quality benefits from reduced erosion, runoff and leaching;

-On-farm benefits from reduced erosion;

-Benefits that will likely endure beyond the contract period;

-Air quality benefits from reduced wind erosion; and


Scuse said CRP provides $1.8 billion annually to landowners and over the past three years, USDA has enrolled more than 8 million acres of private working lands on nearly 120,000 farms into CRP.

Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years. Scuse encouraged producers with expiring contracts and those with environmentally sensitive land to evaluate their options under CRP. For more information on CRP and other FSA programs, visit a local FSA service center or www.fsa.usda.gov.


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