WASHINGTON — The USDA announced Wednesday that farmers, ranchers and landowners committed to protecting and conserving environmentally sensitive land may now sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack 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 Program.
“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,” Vilsack said. “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 Conservation Reserve Program provides incentives to producers who use conservation methods on environmentally sensitive lands.
CRP consists of a continuous and a general sign-up period. Continuous sign-up for the voluntary program starts Monday.
Under continuous sign-up, 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.
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 for this program will also begin Monday.
USDA will also implement the 2014 Farm Bill’s requirement that producers enrolled through general sign-up for more than five years can 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 USDA Farm Service Agency, which administers CRP, will coordinate the various program opportunities. For more information, visit a local FSA county office or www.fsa.usda.gov.