USDA open to CRP sign-up in 2010

Oct 9, 2009
by DTN
USDA open to CRP sign-up in 2010

U.S. farmers may be allowed to enroll land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) as early as next summer after an environmental study is completed, a top Agriculture Department official said last Wednesday.

Jonathan Coppess, head of the Farm Service Agency, told lawmakers USDA must first complete a study to determine the environmental impact and benefits of proposed changes to the CRP.

Several changes to the program were put in place by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill, including cropping history requirements, crop rotation practices, contract incentives and program enrollment terms.

“The potential is still there” for enrollment in fiscal year 2010, Coppess told a House Agriculture subcommittee. “While we’re waiting on the regulation ... we’re evaluating that as well. We won’t be able to put anything forward on the general sign-up until we have the proper regulation out.”

The environmental review will be completed next summer, he said. Fiscal year 2010 began on Oct. 1.

Overall, 31 million acres were enrolled in CRP on Oct. 1, about 2.6 million fewer acres than a year ago. The reserve program, created in 1985, pays landowners an annual rent to idle fragile land for 10 years or more.

Rep. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, said he routinely hears concern from farmers over the CRP.

“It seems to me like you live year to year at best, and farmers like to plan more than they are able to do under that scenario,” said Moran.

An estimated 15 million acres currently enrolled in CRP are set to expire between fiscal years 2010 and 2012. The 2008 farm law set a 32 million-acre ceiling for the reserve through 2012.

A broad range of commodities posted record-high prices last year. Among them were corn and soybeans, but they have since declined about 50 percent each, prompting greater interest in the program.

“With declining commodity prices for wheat, corn, soybeans and other crops since the highs of 2007 and 2008, interest in CRP is again accelerating,” said Coppess, who said enrollment in the program should be near 32 million acres through 2012. — DTN