USDA will conduct a four-week Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general signup beginning May 20 and ending on June 14. Vilsack also announced the restart of sign-up for continuous CRP, including the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement Initiative, the Highly Erodible Land Initiative, the Grassland Restoration Initiative, the Pollinator Habitat Initiative and other related initiatives. Sign-up for continuous CRP began on May 13 and will continue through Sept. 30, 2013.
Vilsack encouraged producers to look into CRP's other enrollment opportunities offered on a continuous, non-competitive, sign-up basis.
CRP has a 27-year legacy of successfully protecting the nation's natural resources through voluntary participation, while providing significant economic and environmental benefits to rural communities across the United States. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.
Currently, 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP through 700,000 contracts on 390,000 farms throughout the U.S., with enrollment in 49 states and Puerto Rico. Contracts on an estimated 3.3 million acres will expire on Sept. 30, 2013. Enrollment authority for all types of CRP, which had expired Sept. 30, 2012, was extended through 2013 by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
Offers for general sign-up CRP contracts are ranked according to an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI). USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) collects data for each of the EBI factors based on the relative environmental benefits for the land offered. FSA uses the following factors to assess the environmental benefits for the land offered:
- Wildlife habitat benefits resulting from covers on contract acreage;
- Water quality benefits from reduced erosion, runoff and leaching;
- On-farm benefits from reduced erosion;
- Benefits that will likely endure beyond the contract period;
- Air quality benefits from reduced wind erosion; and
CRP soil rental rates for non-irrigated cropland were updated this year to better reflect location and market conditions. A nationwide cap was placed on the maximum amount that may be paid per acre for the general sign-up. Taken together these steps help ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent in a fiscally responsible manner while producing the maximum environmental benefits for each dollar spent.
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