WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced
that farmers, ranchers and landowners committed to protecting and conserving
environmentally sensitive land may now sign up for the Conservation Reserve
The secretary also announced that retiring farmers enrolled
in CRP could receive incentives to transfer a portion of their land to
beginning, disadvantaged or veteran farmers through the Transition Incentives
“CRP is one of the largest voluntary conservation programs
in the country,” he said. “This initiative helps farmers and ranchers lead the
nation in preventing soil erosion, improving water quality and restoring
wildlife habitat, all of which will make a difference for future generations.”
“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,” he added.
“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.”
The CRP provides incentives to producers who use
conservation methods on environmentally sensitive lands. For example, farmers
are monetarily compensated for establishing long-term vegetative species, such
as approved grasses or trees to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and
enhance wildlife habitat.
CRP consists of a continuous and general sign-up period.
Continuous sign-up for the voluntary program started 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
USDA also will 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 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. Sign-up also began
TIP funding was increased by more than 30 percent in the
2014 farm bill, providing up to $33 million. 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.