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CRP Likely to Expand by 5 Million Acres in New Farm Bill

Paying for it will mean lower CRP payments.

If you’re a pheasant hunter, like wildlife, or see environmental benefits to grassy fields in the middle of a sea of corn and soybeans, good news exists in the proposed 2018 Farm Bill. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage is likely to increase from the current 24 million acres to 29 million acres. 

To increase acreage to that amount, though, something has to give: money. So how will it be funded? 

“We will pay farmers less,” says Rep. Collin Peterson (DFL-MN). “Considerably less.”

Peterson addressed CRP options to members of the North American Agricultural Journalists (NAAJ) at NAAJ’s annual meeting this week in Washington, D.C.

Rental Rate Cap

“We will put a limitation of 80% of the rental value in a county,” says Peterson. “So, no CRP payment will be higher than 80% of the rental value in the county. We have been overpaying for the CRP. The reason I believe that has happened, is that it (the CRP) has been hijacked by environmentalists. It drove the price up.”

Just how much the reduction will be depends on where landowners live. “In Iowa, this will decrease payments to one third to one half of what they (enrolled landowners) were getting,” says Peterson.

Another area for cost savings will be seed costs. 

“Now, (cost-sharing for) seed payments are 90% to 100% for the seed,” he says. “We will limit that to 40%. This will cause farmers to pay attention to seed costs. They aren’t paying attention to it. Before you know it, costs can get up to $700 an acre. So, if there is just cost-sharing of 40% on $700 per acre on seed, that farmer will pay attention to seed costs.”

29 million acres not a given

A 29-million-acre CRP isn’t a given for a 24-million-acre cap being promoted by feed and grain dealer groups. Another stickler, says Peterson, is a move to prohibit “prime farmland” from being in the CRP. 

“From what I can tell, there is no working definition of what prime farmland is,” says Peterson. “So if you want to talk about a fiasco, give the USDA a requirement to define good farmland. We put a wetland rule in 1985 and still have not been able to define what a wetland is even today. Prime farmland in Iowa is different in Iowa than in Nevada or western Texas.”

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