As the war in Ukraine and drought in the western U.S. drive commodity prices to new highs, there’s a lot of pressure from some lawmakers to open up more of USDA’s largest land idling program, the Conservation Reserve Program. But USDA’s Farm Service Administrator Zach Ducheneaux told Agri-Pulse Newsmakers that with a recent enrollment period recently closed, “we are really happy with the results we have gotten there so far.

“We had 3 million acres coming out of CRP with expiring contracts. Producers had the option…..where they could go back into cropping. The majority of them felt it was appropriate to re-enroll those acres in the CRP program.”

Earlier this week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack reported that 1.8 million acres of farmland covered under expiring contracts would be re-enrolled. There will only be about 800,000 acres in new contracts, resulting in a net loss of about 1.4 million general-signup acres.

About 22 million acres are currently enrolled in CRP, well below the current cap of 25.5 million acres. The enrollment limit rises to 27 million acres in October.

Ducheneaux said the fact that CRP is “a voluntary, incentive-based program really unpacks that argument.”

“Producers always have the option to do something different. What we are really concerned about is making sure that CRP is a viable option to help take some of those marginal acres out of production for the environmental benefit.”  

In this week’s Newsmakers, Ducheneaux also talked about efforts to make farm programs equitable to all. For reactions, he was joined by a distinguished panel of industry experts: Mary Kay Thatcher, Syngenta; Bobby Frederick, NGFA; and Brad Doyle, president of the American Soybean Association. In addition, Agri-Pulse Associate Editor Hannah Pagel has some additional facts about farming that you won’t want to miss. 

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