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Both farm bills would trim acres in program from the current level which is far short of legislated maximum
Some 26.999 million acres of ground were enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) at the end of April as the House and Senate Ag Committees begin their work on a new farm bill. And both panels will seek to reduce the level of acreage allowed in the program from the current maximum of 32 million acres.
The House version of the bill would trim the maximum CRP acres in the program to 24 million by 2017 with the Senate plan reducing the acreage cap to 25 million by the end of the bill.
Here's a look at the top 10 states with CRP acres:
Of the 26.999 million acres in the program at the end of April, 21.506 million were enrolled via general signups and 5.493 million were enrolled via continuous signup efforts.
However, the continuous signup effort has seen no new acres enrolled so far this fiscal year as USDA did not authorize new enrollments via this route until Monday, May 13, a development we reported on last week. USDA Tuesday confirmed the continuous signup had resumed via a press release reminding growers of a May 20-June 14 general signup.
For FY 2012, USDA said that a total of 627,000 acres were enrolled via the continuous signup -- 334,000 re-enrolled acres and 293,000 "new" acres.
That level of re-enrollment interest tracks relatively closely with the general signups held the past three to four years which have seen more than 50 percent of acres enrolled in the general signup process being land that had been under a CRP contract previously.
As for contracts maturing from the program, here's a look over the next 5 years:
If historical patterns hold, it would suggest that around 1.7 million acres or more of maturing CRP contracts this fall will be offered for re-enrollment in the program during the May 20-June 14 general signup.
As for the continuous signup, USDA in 2012 announced two initiatives to target highly erodible land and grassland wetland initiatives, both of which have seen limited enrollments, in part due to the hiatus in the continuous signup from Sept. 30, 2012, to May 13, 2013.
Comments: The CRP remains one of the most popular conservation programs operated by USDA, something reflected by the fact that 50 percent or more of the acres enrolled in general and continuous signups in recent years have been acres that had already been under a CRP contract. The downturn in the maximum acres in the program is coming about as lawmakers seek to produce savings in a new farm bill. The net result will be a program that is even more focused on environmentally sensitive lands, a transformation that has been taking place in the program over the past decade.