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Sign-up for cropland program is under way

April 11, 2011

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that a general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program continues through Friday.

Through the program, eligible landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible cropland.

Land can be enrolled for a period of up to 15 years.

During the general sign-up period, farmers may offer eligible land at their county Farm Service Agency office.

For more information, go to www.fsa.usda.gov/crp, or in Washington County, contact the local FSA office at 1260 Maryland Ave., Suite 107, Hagerstown, by calling 301-797-0500, ext. 2.

Continuous acres represent the most environmentally desirable and sensitive land. Land currently not enrolled in CRP may be offered in this sign-up, provided all eligibility requirements are met. Additionally, current CRP participants with contracts expiring this fall may make new contract offers. Contracts awarded under this sign-up are scheduled to become effective Oct. 1. The general sign-up for CRP will not affect cropped acres for this growing season. Acres will be enrolled in the program to start in the fall.

CRP protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion and is designed to safeguard the nation’s natural resources. By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country.

Through the 2008 Farm Bill, CRP is authorized for a maximum enrollment of 32 million acres. USDA estimates that contracts on 3.3 million to 6.5 million acres are scheduled to expire annually between now and 2014.

FSA will evaluate and rank eligible CRP offers using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) that shows the environmental benefits to be gained from enrolling the land in CRP. The EBI consists of five environmental factors (wildlife, water, soil, air and enduring benefits) and cost. Decisions on the EBI cutoff will be made after the sign-up ends and after analyzing the EBI data of all the offers.

In addition to the general sign-up, CRP’s continuous sign-up program will be ongoing.

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