Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns reminds agricultural producers and landowners that a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up will begin on Monday, March 27 and continue through April 14, 2006.

"I strongly encourage all eligible farmers to continue improving our soil, water, air and wildlife habitat resources by applying for CRP at local Farm Service Agency offices," Johanns says.

CRP participants voluntarily enroll highly erodible and other fragile cropland in CRP through long-term contracts of 10-15 years. Participants plant grasses, trees and other vegetation on the enrolled land. In exchange, participants receive annual rental payments and a payment of up to 50 percent of the cost of establishing conservation covers.

As in previous general sign-ups, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will evaluate eligible CRP offers with the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI), a ranking of the land's contribution to improving soil retention, water quality, wildlife habitat and air quality. FSA will determine the EBI cutoff after the sign-up ends by analyzing the EBI factors of all offers. Since the EBI cutoff used in previous sign-ups may be different for this sign-up, those who met previous EBI thresholds are not guaranteed a contract under this sign-up.

There is limited acreage available for enrollment. FSA encourages landowners to work with their local FSA office to maximize the environmental benefits of their CRP offers. During the last CRP general sign-up, held Aug. 30-Sept. 24, 2004, enrollment offers were highly competitive. Of the 1.7 million acres offered, FSA selected 1.2 million acres that offered the greatest environmental benefits.

Offers accepted under this sign-up will become effective Oct. 1, 2006.

In addition to general sign-up, producers may enroll the most environmentally sensitive land in CRP continuous sign-up and other CRP initiatives. More information on these initiatives and the general sign-up is available at local FSA offices and on FSA's Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crpinfo.htm .