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FSA lifts CRP prescribed burning mandate

Jeff Caldwell 03/28/2012 @ 11:39am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is changing this year. Changing a lot. There are new signup periods, new land practices and plantings, and new requirements. But, one of the program's requirements is going away in a lot of cases.

Prescribed burning has long been a natural way to manage grasslands. In the past, it's also been a required maintenance practice for CRP. Now, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has lifted that requirement, though it's still recommended in some cases.

"[FSA] has removed prescribed burning as a required CRP maintenance practice in some contracts. Prescribed burning is still a recommended practice and may be the most economical maintenance practice," says Kansas State University Research and Extension rangeland management specialist Walt Fick.

If you've used prescribed burning on your CRP acres in the past, it's likely to be recommended under your new contract, Fick adds. There are still management requirements, so he recommends refreshing on those when renewing your contract. Prescribed burning, though, is now just no longer a blanket requirement.

"All CRP participants are required to perform a management practice that can include prescribed burning, interseeding, or light disking. Management practices are eligible for cost-share,” Fick says.

Burning has long been considered the most effective way to reduce lower thatch layers of grasses and trees that can impede the growth of CRP grasses. And, a prescribed burn can prevent potential losses and landscape damage from wildfires, especially later in the year when taller grasses offer more fire fuel.

"Burning can help control cedars and woody seedlings such as cottonwood or Russian olive. Once established, older trees will generally re-sprout after a fire,” Fick says.

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