Non-Starlink Settlement
The old saying that “the check is in the mail” might soon be “the debit card is in the mail,” as it relates to the producer payments for corn acres that produced non-StarLink corn during the 2000 crop year. Many farm operators filed claims in 2003 to receive a portion of the $112.2 million settlement that the Aventis Seed Company has agreed to pay growers for the non-StarLink settlement. However, the final payment details and provisions have been tied up in court proceedings for more than a year. Now it appears that eligible corn producers will receive their non-Starlink corn payments very soon, possibly by early October. The payments will be made on debit cards, which will be sent directly to producers for the settlement amount that is owed to them. Payment amount estimates on eligible corn acres have ranged from $1.50 to $3/acre. The non-StarLink settlement is not a FSA program, and farm operators should not call their FSA office with questions. There is a Non-StarLink Helpline available to assist producers. The toll-free phone number is 1-888-833-4317.

CRP Sign–Up Until Sept. 24
USDA has initiated a General CRP Sign-up from August 30 through September 24, 2004. Landowners can enroll new cropland into CRP, or can re-enroll existing CRP acres under CRP contracts that expire on either September 30, 2004 or September 30, 2005. To be eligible for CRP, landowners must have owned the land parcel for at least 12 months prior to the close of the CRP sign-up period, and the land must have been in crop production in four of the six years from 1996-2001. Prevented planted acreage counts as cropland acres. There is also some other specialty land that may be eligible for CRP. The CRP contracts are for either 10 or 15 years and would go into effect on either October 1, 2005 or 2006, at the discretion of the landowner. CRP payments are based on average land rental values in a given area. CRP requests from landowners are ranked using the “Environmental Benefits Index” (EBI), which is used to evaluate the environmental benefit in relation to the USDA annual cost for the proposed CRP land. Landowners with land accepted into CRP can receive up to 50% cost-share payments from USDA, in addition to the annual rental payments, to help establish recommended conservation practices on their CRP acreage. The purpose of CRP is to remove environmentally sensitive land from crop production, in order to reduce soil erosion, protect water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat. The USDA goal is to have 39.2 million acres in CRP nationwide, while currently there is only about 34.8 million acres enrolled in CRP. Many of the existing CRP contracts expire between now and 2009, which is why USDA is choosing to offer re-enrollment options on CRP contracts that are expiring in 2004 and 2005. For more information on the current CRP sign-up, landowners should contact their County Farm Service Agency (FSA) Office, or check the USDA FSA web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov.

Continuous CRP
Sign-up for the Continuous CRP Program is ongoing, and can take place at any time during the year at county FSA offices. Continuous CRP targets portions of land parcels that very environmentally sensitive and are a high conservation priority, such as filter strips and buffer zones near rivers, streams, lakes, and open tile inlets. Continuous CRP in non-competitive and does not involve a bidding process. If the proposed land is determined to be eligible, it is automatically accepted into the CRP program, and the landowners will receive annual rental payments, incentive payments for certain practices, and will be eligible for cost-sharing assistance for implementing CRP practices on the land. Again, check with County FSA Office for more details on eligibility for the Continuous CRP Program.

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.