The USDA this week opened enrollment for the Conservation Reserve Program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, concurrently promoting an incentive program for farmers to transfer a portion of their expiring CRP land to beginning or disadvantaged farmers.
CRP, a voluntary program to help farmers and ranchers prevent soil erosion, improve water quality and restore wildlife habitats, consists of a "continuous" and "general" sign-up period.
Continuous sign up for the voluntary program starts June 9. Under continuous sign-up authority, eligible land can be enrolled in CRP at any time with contracts of up to 10 to 15 years in duration. In lieu of a general sign-up this year, USDA will allow producers with general CRP contracts expiring this September to have the option of a one-year contract extension.
USDA will also implement the 2014 Farm Bill's requirement that producers enrolled through general sign-up for more than five years can exercise the option to opt-out of the program if certain other conditions are met. In addition, the new grassland provisions, which will allow producers to graze their enrolled land, will enable producers to do so with more flexibility.
The transfer option, called the Transition Incentives Program, provides two additional years of payments for retired farmers and ranchers who transition expiring CRP acres to socially disadvantaged, military veteran, or beginning producers who return the land to sustainable grazing or crop production.
"The average age of farmers and ranchers in the United States is 58 years, and twice as many are 65 or older compared to those 45 or younger," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. "The cost of buying land is one of the biggest barriers to many interested in getting started in agriculture. The Transition Incentives Program is very useful as we work to help new farmers and ranchers get started."
Sign up for TIP will also begin June 9. TIP funding was increased by more than 30% in the 2014 Farm Bill, providing up to $33 million through 2018.
Also as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, participants meeting specific qualifications may have the opportunity to terminate their CRP contract during fiscal year 2015 if the contract has been in effect for a minimum of five years and if other conditions are also met.
For more information on CRP and other FSA programs, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.
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