USDA will be holding a general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup Aug. 2-27, 2010, USDA Undersecretary Jim Miller announced today.
With 4.5 million acres of ground currently under contracts that mature Sept. 30, 2010, USDA is opting to hold the first general signup since 2006, Miller noted. The bids offered by those seeking to enroll acres into CRP will be evaluated using the erodibility index (EI) and environmental benefits index (EBI).
Factors included in the EBI are wildlife habitat, water quality, erosion reduction, ai quality and others.
As for rental rates for what is being called general signup 39, USDA officials said they don't have "any anticipation" what rental rates will be. Under the current program, the average rental rate on ground enrolled via a general signup is around $50 per acre, and officials said that they "hope" rental rates reflect the current rate structure which has risen in recent years.
Currently, USDA Washington is working with states to set those rental rates in place, officials said.
Under the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress reduced the maximum number of acres that can be enrolled in CRP to 32 million, down from 39.2 million previously. Currently, there are around 31.3 million acres in CRP.
USDA expects the combination of those maturities this fall, ground enrolled via the general signup and under the continuous signup process will maintain around 32 million acres in the program.
With another 4.4 million in CRP contracts maturing as of Sept. 30, 2011, and another 6.5 million acres as of Sept. 30, 2012, that could mean still more opportunities for CRP enrollments. But USDA's Miller said there has been "no decision" made on having a general signup in future years but "that is an issue we will be taking a hard look at." He also reminded that those with maturing CRP contracts don't have any preferential status if they opt to submit a bid to keep their land in CRP.
USDA earlier this year published a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the CRP and issued a final version in mid-June. USDA published a "record of decision" July 23 on the program, setting its final plans in place.