General CRP Sign-Up

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced a general sign-up period for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from March 27 through April 14, 2006, at county FSA Offices throughout the U.S. This is the first general CRP sign-up in three years, since the spring of 2003. To be eligible for the CRP general sign-up, a producer must have owned or operated the land for at least 12 months prior to the CRP sign-up date, with the exception of a change of land ownership due to a death or foreclosure. Land must be cropland that has been planted or considered planted to an agricultural commodity in four of the previous six crop years.

FSA provides annual rental payments to producers for the 10-15 years of a CRP contract in return for the producer establishing long-term, resource-conserving covers on the CRP land. FSA bases CRP rental rates on the relative productivity of the soils in each county, and average dry land cash rental rate or cash rent equivalent in a given area. The maximum CRP rental rate for each offer is calculated in advance of enrollment. Producers can offer the land for CRP at either the maximum rate, or at a lower rate, in order to increase the likelihood that the CRP offer will be accepted. CRP annual rental payments can be increased by up to an additional $5/acre per year as an incentive to perform certain CRP maintenance obligations. FSA also provides cost-share assistance to participants who establish approved cover on eligible cropland. The maximum cost-share is 50 percent of the CRP participant’s actual costs for establishing FSA approved practices.

All CRP offers submitted to FSA Offices during the March 27-April 14 sign-up period will be ranked according to the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI), which includes benefits for enhanced water quality, reduced soil erosion, improved wildlife habitat, etc.

Continuous CRP Sign-Up
Producers can avoid the highly competitive EBI process for determining accepted CRP bids, described earlier, by enrolling the most environmentally desirable land into the Continuous CRP Program. Landowners may submit Continuous CRP offers to county FSA Offices at any time. Producers should work with their county FSA and NRCS office to determine which portions of a land parcel may be eligible for Continuous CRP sign-up and which portions of the land parcel need to be bid under the competitive CRP sign-up process.

CRP Contract Extensions
FSA has sent out notices to eligible CRP contract holders with CRP contracts that expire on Sept. 30, 2007, regarding the details of the CRP re-enrollment and extension opportunities. They have been notified regarding the status of their existing CRP contract, the CRP re-enrollment or extension option that is available on that land parcel, and the length of the new or extended CRP contract that is being offered. These CRP contract holders are expected to notify FSA of their intentions for the expiring CRP contracts by the end of April, 2006. Land owners with CRP contracts that expire in 2008 and beyond will receive their CRP letters from FSA at a later date.

For more information on the current General CRP Sign-up, the Continuous CRP sign-up, or CRP Contract Extensions, landowners should contact their county FSA or NRCS office. FSA also has considerable information on the CRP Program available on their web site: www.fsa.usda.gov under Conservation.

Editors note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.