May 17, 2001

USDA Encourages Local Farmers To Consider Continuous CRP Contracts

It's planting time in Missouri, and everything is going smoothly. Or, maybe not. Planting season often is when farmers notice those oddball areas on their farms that make planting difficult and, generally, don't produce very good yields.

The Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) has been developed with those areas in mind. And, the Natural Resources Conservation Service says this is a good time to enroll in the program.

CCRP was developed to protect areas of fields that are susceptible to soil erosion and to provide a sediment filter around water sources near crop fields. Farmers with eligible land may agree to protect the areas for 10 to 15 years by installing filter strips, riparian buffers, field windbreaks, grass waterways, contour grass strips and shallow water areas for wildlife.

Eligible sites include field parcels that have been planted to a crop in two of the last five years. Eligible sites also must have at least one of these conditions: 1) concentrated flow areas causing small gullies and ditches; 2) areas adjacent to streams, lakes, ponds, sinkholes or wetlands; 3) areas that would benefit from contour grass strips; 4) existing, functional terraces; or 5) areas capable of holding shallow water for the majority of the year.

As an incentive to participate in CCRP, landowners receive annual rental payments for land taken out of production. They also receive annual payments for maintenance of the conservation practices. With most practices, landowners receive 90 percent cost share for installation. And with some practices, landowners receive one-time incentive pay-ments of $100 to $150 per acre, depending on the length of the contract. Allen Green, NRCS assistant state conservationist in Missouri, says there's more good news about CCRP.

"Unlike the general Con-servation Reserve Program sign ups that farmers are probably used to, they don't have to submit bids for CCRP," he says. "With CCRP, if their land is eligible, they're in."

In addition, Green says, there is no limited sign-up period with CCRP. Landowners may enroll at any time. But he encourages them do so now.

"The program is available now and we have approval to enroll acreage," Green says. "We hope that CCRP will be open to Missouri farmers for some time, but we don't know when access to it might be closed."

Green says farmers who already are planting their spring crops can sign up for the program now, but choose to not activate the contracts until next year. He says contracts activated after October 31 would still be eligible for the full 10 to 15 year life of the contract.

"There really is no reason to wait to sign up for CCRP, and we encourage landowners not to wait," Green says. He adds that landowners interested in the program should contact their county's USDA Service Center to see if they have land that is eligible. Landowners have no obligation to participate until the final contracts are signed.

"The Continuous Conserv-ation Reserve Program provides an excellent opportunity for farmers to treat those rough spots that they have to farm around, and at the same time it guarantees them a pretty good income from those areas for 10 to 15 years," Green says. "The benefits to society are that the conservation practices installed on those areas help reduce soil erosion, keep sediment out of water sources, and provide good wildlife habitat."

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