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Conservation Reserve Program signup begins

Though it’s been overshadowed by the late planting season, another Conservation Reserve Program signup began June 9.

It’s too early to assess how popular this year’s signup will be, says Aaron Krauter, executive director of the North Dakota office of the Farm Service Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most farmers have been so focused on difficult planting conditions that they haven’t had time to check into the signup, he says.

But this year’s signup has a number of features and twists that farmers and landlords should consider.

First, it’s a continuous signup – but one that includes a special provision for general signup, too.

CRP, through both general and continuous signups, provides financial incentives to producers who use conservation methods on environmentally sensitive land for 10 to 15 years.

A general signup is a competitive process in which a landlord offers to enroll a particular piece of land in CRP, with that offer evaluated and ranked by USDA. Not all offers are accepted. General signups aren’t held every year, and there isn’t one in 2014.

In contrast, a continuous signup is an ongoing process, when funding is available, in which offers are accepted automatically provided the land meets certain eligibility requirements. Typically, continuous signups are for smaller parcels of particularly sensitive land.

What’s different this year is that, in lieu of a general signup, USDA will allow producers with a general CRP contract expiring in September to extend the contract one year.

CRP contracts totaling 1.8 million acres of general signup are scheduled to expire on Sept. 30. Only contracts that expire then can be extended.

TIP program

The newly launched signup also includes increased funding for the Transition Incentives Program, which provides two additional years of payments for retired farmers and ranchers who transition expiring CRP acres to “socially disadvantaged or beginning producers” who return the land to sustainable grazing or crop production.”

The 2014 farm bill authorized $33 million in funding for the program. The previous farm bill authorized $25 million for the program, which was so popular that it ran out of money.

The program helps beginning farmers who struggle to match rental rates paid by established farmers, Krauter says.

“It’s a great program. For beginning farmers to be able to be competitive right out of the gate, it’s tough to go up against cash rents,” he says.

The 2014 farm bill also authorized so-called “early outs” for some CRP contracts, provided certain conditions are met, during fiscal year 2015.

FSA says the start and end dates for requesting early outs will be announced later.

For more information on CRP, contact your local FSA agency or go to