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Continuous CRP an option when increasing row crop acres

Agriculture.com Staff 02/08/2008 @ 1:50pm

Farmers making their planting plans should not overlook an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, according to USDA officials.

High grain prices are encouraging Wisconsin farmers to plant more corn and soybeans. The downside is the risk of more soil erosion plus the risk of getting out of compliance for USDA programs. A good solution for these two problems is the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), according to two USDA agencies, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency.

"Continuous CRP is a great option for farmers who may be increasing their cash grain acres, on land coming out of sod, or for any field needing some erosion control," says Pat Leavenworth, Wisconsin state conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Continuous CRP is similar to the general CRP in that it offers annual rental payments and costsharing, but is designed for the small sensitive areas needing erosion control. Practices like grassed waterways and buffers that have huge erosion control benefits but are small in acreage can be cost-shared through continuous CRP. And, the USDA encourages farmers to enroll now, before March 15, when the current farm bill expires.

"With the new farm bill being debated in Congress, no one can be sure what changes we may see,” says Ben Brancel, USDA Farm Service Agency State Director, in a government report. "The program is open now and we can enroll any eligible acreage.

"We hope that Continuous CRP will carry on in the new farm bill, but there is no guarantee," Brancel adds.

Continuous CRP was developed to protect areas of fields that are susceptible to soil erosion and to provide a sediment filter around water sources near crop fields. Farmers with eligible land may agree to protect the areas for 10 to 15 years by installing grass waterways, filter strips, riparian buffers, field windbreaks, contour grass strips and shallow water areas for wildlife.

As an incentive to participate in Continuous CRP, landowners receive annual rental payments for land taken out of production and for maintenance of the conservation practices. With most practices, landowners receive up to 50% cost share for installation and an additional 40% of installation costs as an incentive payment. And with some practices, landowners receive one-time up front signing incentive payments of $100 per acre.

Farmers making their planting plans should not overlook an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, according to USDA officials.

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