Money found to maintain acceptable CRP acreage

Washington – It’s not a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but
$6 billion in savings through renegotiated crop insurance contracts
will allow U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to
make good on a pledge to keep as many acres as possible enrolled in
the Conservation Reserve Program.

While $4 billion in “new” money will be used to pay down the
national debt, the other $2 billion will allow Vilsack to open the
first CRP enrollment since 2006. Up until June 10, there was no
clear picture of where Vilsack was going to find the funding to pay
for the CRP enrollment that he promised while attending Pheasant
Fest back in February.

Now, the $2 billion in crop insurance savings is going to allow
the USDA to protect nearly twice as much acreage as Vilsack had
hoped in February, according to Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s
vice president of government affairs.

“The USDA’s announcement is going to give them the funding base
needed to help Secretary Vilsack live up to his pledge to keep CRP
enrollment at or near 32 million acres,” Nomsen said. “This will
allow them to accept a substantially larger pool of acres and
contracts (than could have been retained or enrolled) prior to the
decision about the funding. Back in February, when Vilsack made his
pledge at Pheasant Fest, we were looking at a general sign-up of
between 1.5 and 2 million acres. Now it may be upwards of double
that amount – nearly 4 million acres or so.”

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership also praised the
USDA’s work in renegotiating crop insurance rates that helped the
agency realize the $6 billion in savings.

Nomsen said PF is now waiting for the USDA to complete an
internal process that will give PF and its Farm Bill biologists the
details that will guide bids from private landowners who wish to
enroll acreage in CRP during this next general sign-up.

Once PF receives that information, its Farm Bill biologists will
begin scheduling “learning sessions” or seminars for private
landowners so the landowners can learn how to best prepare their
bids.

“We haven’t had a sign-up since 2006, so we will have to have a
refresher course on how to prepare a bid and submit applications,”
Nomsen said. “Once we learn the process for this sign-up, we will
use our Farm Bill biologists to look at that process and then have
them help farmers and landowners who want to submit a bid.”

The $2 billion that will be invested in Farm Bill programs
includes releasing approved risk management products, such as the
expansion of the Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage program; providing
a performance discount or refund, which will reduce the cost of
crop insurance for certain producers; increasing Conservation
Reserve Program acreage to the maximum level; investing in new and
amended Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program initiatives; and
investing in CRP monitoring, according to a USDA press release.

CRP_encourages farmers and ranchers to plant ground cover that
bolsters soil, water and wildlife resources, improving habitat for
waterfowl, upland birds and wild turkeys.

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