Clements: The Department of Agriculture released its hold on enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program, allowing farmers and ranchers to voluntarily enroll their farmland. USDA paused CRP enrollment because acreage in the program was nearing a cap set by the 2014 farm bill of 24 million acres. In 2016, 23.9 million acres were enrolled in the program, according to Dr. John Newton, American Farm Bureau Federation market intelligence director.
Newton: For the last year, enrollment in CRP has been very limited, but now estimates are less than 23 million acres are enrolled in the CRP program. We also know that there are a number of acres set to expire from the CRP program, so there’s an opportunity for growers to get some ground back into the CRP program.
Clements: Enrollment is open now until August. Newton says the emphasis on continuous CRP enrollment will ensure that the most sensitive acreage will be enrolled in the program.
Newton: It’s important to know that CRP is a voluntary program aimed at conserving soil, water and wildlife resources, and they do that by removing highly erodible and environmentally sensitive lands from production and farmers then install resource conserving practices. USDA does provide an annual rental rate on CRP ground.
Clements: Going forward, Newton says there is congressional interest in expanding the CRP acreage cap and updating the rental rate methodology in the next farm bill.
Newton: We know that the House bill had proposed to increase the acreage cap from the current level of 24 million acres up to 29 million acres. And then, Congress also proposed substantial modifications to the rental rates under the CRP program. And really, the rental rate adjustment is designed for some of those young beginning farmers that are competing with CRP ground in their attempts to lease cropland.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.