September 16, 2004

Sign-Ups Going Slow For Popular CRP Program

With a little more than a week remaining in the latest Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign-up period organizers are still waiting to fill the available acreage.

The sign-up, which began August 30 and runs through September 24, has been slower than expected. Despite a cap of 25-percent of all cropland, Scotland County has more than 8,500 acres of room under the cap to enroll environmentally fragile cropland into the nationís most successful conservation program.

ďIím not sure what the numbers are like nationally, but here locally and I believe even statewide, the sign-ups are coming in a little slower than usual,Ē said Scotland County Farm Service Agency Director Gary Kittle.

Kittle pointed to a number of possible reasons for the tardy response by landowners. He noted that cash rent rates are running anywhere from $80 to $100 an acre, which is more competitive than the average $60 to $70 payments made per acre by CRP.

The FSA director also noted changes in CRP maintenance rules that are effecting the bottom line for farmers. New 10-year CRP contracts will require two, three-year maintenance cycles. One third of the contract ground will be required to have disking, burning or chemical treatment in the first year of both cycles. The next third will undergo the required maintenance in year two of the cycle with the final third being done in the last year.

Kittle said that even with 50-percent cost sharing from FSA, the maintenance requirements are another cost that farmers must consider when deciding whether or not to enroll in the CRP program.

Currently there are 873 CRP contracts in Scotland County covering approximately 42,700 acres and representing $2,744,195 of income annually for the landowners.

Statewide in 2004 there are 32,884 CRP contracts on 20,369 farms enrolling more than 1.5 million acres. That ranks as the eighth highest total.

Nationwide there are more than 650,000 contracts on more than 388,000 farms. CRP has 34,724,144 acres enrolled in the United States representing $1.66 billion in income for landowners. The program has helped reduce soil erosion by an estimated 440 million tons last year with more than 18 million acres of CRP planted with vegetation defined as best suitable for wildlife.

Iowa ranks #1 in the nation with 90,745 CRP contracts. Texas is #1 with nearly 4 million acres enrolled and also has the largest CRP income at $139, 640,000. Texas still is well below the national average of $47.95 paid per acre, making an average of just $35.20 per acre.

New CRP contracts that are entered prior to September 24 will go into effect on either October 1, 2005 or 2006 at the producerís discretion.

During the last sign-up period in 2003, enrollment offers were highly competitive. Only half of the 4 million plus acres offered were accepted into the program. The Missouri FSA accepted 3,046 offers for a total of 154,538 acres.

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