CRP general sign-up begins March 14
21 percent of CRP acreage in county to expire in 2011, 41 percent in 2012
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will hold a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up 41 from March 14 through April 15. The general sign-up allows land owners who have land in CRP that will expire on September 30, 2011, to offer their land for re-enrollment in the program, and also offers the opportunity for landowners who have not participated in the program to offer their land as well.CRP contract duration is between 10 to 15 years, with accepted contracts for signup 41 beginning Oct. 1, 2011. To submit CRP offers, producers must visit the county FSA office in Park River. Offers will only be accepted during the sign-up period.
According to the USDA FSA Fact Sheet, CRP is a voluntary program that helps agricultural producers use environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolled in CRP plant or maintain long-term, resource-conserving covers to control soil erosion, improve water and air quality and enhance wildlife habitat.
FSA ranks offers for CRP sign-up according to the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI), collecting data for each EBI factor based on the relative environmental benefits for the land offered. EBI rankings are unique for each tract of land offered into the program.
FSA assigns each offer a point score based on the offer’s relative environmental factors. Each offer competes with all other offers. FSA determines offer acceptibility based on the ranking results.
For the 2011 signup, FSA will use the following EBI factors to assess the environmental benefits of the land:
• Wildlife benefits
• Water quality benefits
• On-farm benefits from reduced erosion
• Benefits that will endure beyond the contract period
• Air quality benefits from reduced wind erosion
To be eligible for CRP enrollment, a producer must have owned or operated the land for at least 12 months prior to the end of the CRP sign-up period.
Exceptions to the rule are:
• New owner acquired the land due to the death of the previous owner;
• Ownership change occurred due to foreclosure where the owner exercised a timely right of redemption in accordance with state law; or
• The circumstance of the acquisition presents adequate assurance that the new owner did not acquire the land for the purpose of placing it in CRP.
Land must be cropland that is planted or considered planted to an agricultural commodity four of the six crop years from 2002 to 2007 and be physically and legally capable of being planted in a normal manner to an agricultural commodity to be eligible for placement in general sign-up CRP. Alfalfa or other multiyear grasses and legumes grown in rotation not exceeding 12 years may be eligible for the 2011 sign-up.
FSA provides CRP signup participants with annual rental payments, incentive payments and cost-share assistance. Rental payments are made to participants for establishing long-term, resource conserving covers based on the relative productivity of the soils within the county and the average dryland cash rent or cash rent equivalent. When FSA calculates the maximum CRP rental rate, producers may offer the land below that rate to increase the chance that FSA accepts their offer.
FSA also provides cost-share assistance to CRP participants to establish approved cover on eligible cropland. The cost-share amount will not exceed 50 percent of the landowner’s cost to establish the cover. It is the landowner’s responsibility to maintain the grass cover and perform weed control throughout the duration of the CRP contract.
According to Kristi Brintnell, Walsh County FSA executive director, 22,340 acres of CRP land will expire as of Sept. 30. That is 21 percent of more than 107,000 acres of Walsh County land currently in CRP. During the 2010 planting season, 601,000 acres of land in Walsh County were planted to cash crops. In 2012, the contracts on 41 percent or 44,317 acres of Walsh County land in CRP will expire.
With commodity prices on the rise, some landowners may choose not to re-enroll their cropland in CRP for another 10 to 15 years, although Brintnell said she has not witnessed a big decrease in CRP acres in Walsh County in recent years.
“Some CRP participants may choose not to re-enroll their land at this time because they may choose to offer it for cash rent,” Brintnell said. “There is more competition for CRP land because the markets are good right now.”
Transition Incentive Program
The Transition Incentive Program or TIP is now offered through the FSA office, providing incentives to landowners whose CRP contracts are expiring.
TIP provides annual rental payments for two years after the CRP expiration date to landowners who transition their expiring CRP land to a beginning (less than 10 years) or disadvantaged farmer or rancher who is returning the land to production for sustainable grazing or crop production as long as that beginning farmer is not a family member. CRP participants and beginning farmers may enroll in TIP one year before the current CRP contract expires. The current landowner must be a retired or retiring farmer or rancher on land enrolled in an expiring CRP contract to be eligible for TIP.
“The incentive is given to help young farmers get their hand on some land because it is so competitive for land right now,” Brintnell said. “It’s a good program. We have seen some activity in the county and I expect more.”
The FSA office in Park River is not taking appointments for CRP enrollment at this time. Anyone interested in CRP enrollment should visit the office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.