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CRP general sign-up ends August 27, 2010

Agriculture Secretary Tom
Vilsack today announced that a general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve
Program (CRP) will begin on August 2, 2010 and continue through August 27,
2010. During the sign-up period, farmers and ranchers may offer eligible land for
CRP's competitive general sign-up at their county Farm Service Agency (FSA)
office. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized USDA to maintain CRP enrollment up to 32
million acres. Jim Miller, Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign
Agriculture Services, made the announcement on behalf of Secretary Vilsack
during a conference call with reporters.

"America's farmers and
ranchers play an important role in improving our environment, and for nearly 25
years, CRP has helped this nation build sound conservation practices that
preserve the soil, clean our water, and restore habitat for wildlife,"
said Miller. "Today’s announcement will help us create a greener and
healthier America, and I encourage all interested farmers and ranchers to
contact their local FSA office to learn more how to take advantage of this
opportunity.”

To help ensure that
interested farmers and ranchers are aware of the sign-up period, USDA has
signed partnership agreements with several conservation and wildlife
organizations, which will play an active role in USDA’s 2010 CRP outreach
efforts. Additionally, Secretary Vilsack has recorded two public service
announcements, which are available to the press and public here.

CRP is a voluntary program
that assists farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers to use their
environmentally sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolling
in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers in exchange for rental
payments, cost-share, and technical assistance. CRP protects millions of acres
of America's topsoil from erosion and is designed to improve the nation's
natural resources base. Participants voluntarily remove environmentally
sensitive land from agricultural production by entering into long-term
contracts for 10 to 15 years. In exchange, participants receive annual rental
payments and a payment of up to 50 percent of the cost of establishing
conservation practices.

By reducing water runoff and
sedimentation, CRP also 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 wildlife population increases in many parts of the country. As a result, CRP
has provided significant opportunities for hunting and fishing on private
lands.

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
covering about 4.5 million acres may make new contract offers. Contracts
awarded under this sign-up are scheduled to become effective Oct. 1, 2010.

FSA implements CRP on behalf
of Commodity Credit Corporation. FSA will evaluate and rank eligible CRP offers
using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) for 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.

Those who would have met
previous sign-up EBI thresholds are not guaranteed a contract under this
sign-up. In addition to the general sign-up, CRP's continuous sign-up program
will be ongoing. Continuous acres represent the most environmentally desirable
and sensitive land. For more information here

By Kent Politsch, USDA

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