ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BILL HARMON
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced that sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program is extended from May 30 to June 13.
“Farmers and ranchers’ interest in the general CRP signup has been very strong,” Veneman said. “This extension will give producers who are busy with this year’s planting season more time to sign up for this highly successful environmental program.”
CRP is the nation’s largest private lands environmental improvement program. The program protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion, provides valuable wildlife habitat and safeguards America’s streams and other bodies of water.
The 2002 Farm Bill authorized CRP enrollment up to 39.2 million acres. CRP 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. Producers can sign up at county Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices across the nation.
Current participants with contracts expiring this fall-covering about 1.5 million acres-can make new contract offers which, if accepted, will become effective Oct. 1. All other contracts awarded under this signup will become effective either at the beginning of the next fiscal year, Oct. 1, or the following year, Oct. 1, 2004, whichever the producer chooses.
FSA will evaluate and rank eligible CRP offers using the Environmental Benefits Index, a ranking of environmental benefits to be gained from enrolling the land in CRP.
Decisions on the EBI cutoff will be made by the Secretary after the signup ends and after FSA analyzes the EBI numbers of all the offers.
Those who would have met previous sign-up EBI thresholds are not guaranteed a contract under this signup.
Aside from CRP enrollment, producers should be visiting county FSA offices to report their farm(s) 2003 crop acres. Only a few days remain for the small grain crops of wheat, barley and oats to be registered by the June 2 deadline. Producers reporting after this due date must be charged late file fees.
Plantings of other crops such as corn, milo, soybeans, legumes and other land uses can also be reported, but the deadline for reporting these crops is Aug. 1.
Total cropland must be reported by program participants on each farm before a final 2003 program payment can be earned and issued. Make your acreage reporting appointment by calling the Marion County FSA office at 620-382-3714.
Bill Harmon is executive director of the Marion County office Farm Service Agency in Marion.