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Early re-enrollments, extensions set in conservation program

August 31, 2004

The Farm Service Agency in Washington County is offering early re-enrollments in the Conservation Reserve Program and contract extensions for acres that begin expiring in 2007.

Colleen Cashell, executive director for FSA in Washington County, also announced that general sign up for CRP began Monday and ends Sept. 24.

In three years, 16 million acres under CRP contract will expire. Another 6 million acres will follow in 2008, 4 million in 2009 and 2 million in 2010.

Among other issues, USDA is seeking public comment on the following:

· How to manage the large acreage set to expire from CRP;

· How to manage future CRP sign-ups and acreage;

· How to evaluate the program's environmental effectiveness;

· How to better utilize information technology such as Geographic Information Systems that evaluate acreage for enrollment; and

· How to improve CRP, including the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, through partnerships that better address local environmental issues.

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CRP is the country's largest conservation program on private lands with a current enrollment of 34.8 million acres.

Participants remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production by entering into long-term contracts for 10 to 15 years. In exchange, participants receive annual rent and a payment of up to half the cost of establishing conservation practices.

The 2002 Farm Bill authorized CRP enrollment up to 39.2 million acres. Landowners are encouraged to work with their local FSA offices to maximize the environmental benefits of their offers.

During the last CRP general sign-up, enrollment offers nationwide were highly competitive, Cashell said. Of the 4 million acres offered, USDA chose 2 million.

USDA will use the Environmental Benefits Index to rank the acreage offered. The index is based on costs and soil erosion, water quality, enduring benefits, air quality and wildlife enhancement.

Offers accepted under this sign-up will become effective Oct. 1, 2005, or Oct. 1, 2006, at the producer's discretion. More detailed information on CRP and the general sign-up is available at local FSA offices and on FSA's Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crpinfo.htm

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