FAQ: A few weeks ago USDA announced it is paying higher rental rates for Conservation Reserve Program acres, to keep the land in the program. My contract on 80 acres is set to expire this coming September 30. With continued strong grain prices, I'm thinking about putting that land into corn and soybeans instead of leaving it in grass and re-entering it into a CRP contract. How much higher are the new rental rates the USDA is paying for CRP land compared to rates on previous contracts?
CRP IS NOW MORE COMPETITIVE: Landowners with expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts or those with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate their options under CRP especially with the new increased rental rates USDA is paying to keep land in CRP.
Answer: John Whitaker, state executive director for USDA's Farm Service Agency in Iowa, announced in early June that new soil rental rates are now being used for the FSA's Conservation Reserve Program. Maximum CRP rental rates are calculated using the three predominant soil types that make up the offered area. A weighted average of the individual rates associated with each soil type determines the overall rental payment per acre. Most soil rates have increased throughout the state.
"These new higher rates have been increased to continue to make CRP competitive with higher cash rent prices," says Whitaker. "Producers who have inquired about CRP have been surprised at our new rental payment rates, which in most cases are significantly higher when compared to the rates used for the CRP contacts that are expiring this fall."
These new rates are in effect for the 45th general CRP sign-up, which began on May 20, 2013 and continued through June 14, 2013, as well as for the continuous CRP which continues through September 30, 2013.
Producers with expiring CRP contracts are urged to evaluate their options
CRP is a voluntary program that assists farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers to use their environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. CRP helps protect groundwater by reducing water runoff, sedimentation, and is a major contributor to increases in wildlife. Producers enrolling in CRP plant long-term resource conserving cover in exchange for the rental payments, cost-share and technical assistance.
Whitaker says producers with expiring contracts or producers with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate their options under CRP especially given these new increased rates. On September 30, 2013, contracts on an estimated 3.3 million acres of CRP nationwide are set to expire; 183,399 acres will expire in Iowa.
Currently, about 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP nationwide, 1.5 million acres in Iowa. CRP is a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them safeguard environmentally sensitive land. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. For more information on the CRP and other programs administered by FSA contact your local FSA office or the website www.fsa.usda.gov/ia.
Landowners and farmers can now enroll eligible land in the "Continuous CRP"
There are two versions of the CRP program: the continuous sign up for CRP, and the general sign-up. The general CRP sign-up is held periodically, perhaps once a year. The sign-up for the continuous version is held year-round.
FSA also recently announced the restart of sign-up for the continuous CRP, including the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement Initiative, or SAFE, the Highly Erodible Land Initiative, the Westland Restoration Initiative, the Pollinator Habitat Initiative, the Upland Bird Habitat Buffer Initiative, and the Duck Nesting Habitat Initiative. Sign-up for continuous CRP began on May 13 and will continue through September 30, 2013.
"With our general CRP sign-up which began May 20, and with the restarting of the continuous CRP program, this gives producers more options and flexibility to enroll acreage into the CRP," says Whitaker. "Continuous CRP program practices are an important part of the overall conservation picture in production agriculture. Continuous practices include filter strips, grassed waterways, contour grass strips, riparian buffers, windbreaks, shelterbelts and living snow fences to name a few.
Whitaker adds there are three SAFE projects that specifically target wildlife concerns in Iowa. They are Gaining Ground for Wildlife, Iowa Pheasant Recovery, and the Habitat for Early Successional and Neotropical Migratory Forest Birds.
Producers can also enroll eligible land on a continuous basis into CRP program
Producers can begin to enroll land on a continuous basis at their local FSA county office. With the use of crop reports, soil survey and geographic information system data, local FSA staff can determine a producer's eligibility and the acres that could be enrolled. Not only can land be enrolled for the first time, producers with expiring continuous contracts should also contact their local FSA office for re-enrollment.
On September 30, 2013, continuous CRP contracts on an estimated 44,733 acres in Iowa will expire. "Producers with expiring contracts or producers with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate their options under CRP. After these contacts have expired, these acres are no longer eligible for continuous CRP enrollment," says Whitaker.
Producers whose offers are accepted in the sign-up can receive cost-share assistance for planting covers on the CRP land and receive an annual rental payment for the length of the contract. Continuous enrollments provide additional financial incentives for many practices. Producers are encouraged to consider enrolling land into CRP in either this continuous sign-up or the general sign-up. For more information on CRP and other FSA programs, visit your local FSA county office or www.fsa.usda.gov/.