Conservations Reserve Program Land not to be Released

US - The US Department of Agriculture is not going to release land in the Conservations Reserve Program without penalty, despite concerns over damage to crops by floods earlier this year.
calendar icon 31 July 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Agriculture secretary Ed Schaffer said that the decision had been taken because the damage to crops was less than had been feared.

He said the corn crop is expected to be the second largest on record and recent easing of prices is helping the livestock industry.

"We have just completed a very thorough review of whether we should allow the early release of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) without penalty to land owners," Secretary Schafer said.

"After carefully considering recent crop reports and weather conditions, the price trends we are seeing in grain markets and the likelihood of increasing land for crop production, we have decided not to allow the penalty-free release of CRP land at this time.

"The recent easing in prices is helpful to the livestock industry."
US Agriculture Secretary Ed Schaffer

"Despite the damage and disruption caused by the very severe floods that hit the Midwest last month, the indications so far are that the impact on this year's corn and soybean crops will be less than was originally feared.

"The markets have been reacting favorably to the good growing weather we have been experiencing in recent weeks and encouraging reports on crop conditions. Cash prices for corn are down 25 percent -- and for soybeans, 14 percent from their record highs last month.

"Even with the damage and delays in planting caused by the floods, this year's corn crop is on track to be the second largest on record with an anticipated harvest of almost 79 million acres."

He added that the strength of the commitment America's farmers have made to meeting the nation's need for corn for food, feed and fuel use has reassured the markets that there will be an adequate supply available this year.

"The recent easing in prices is helpful to the livestock industry and will allow current CRP contract holders to make informed decisions about whether they want to take an early exit from the program," he said.

"Another factor we considered is the simple reality that under the provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill, and the terms of existing CRP contracts, total acreage in the program is going to drop without any action by USDA.

"In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress lowered the cap on the total number of acres allowed in the CRP program from 39.2 million acres to 32 million acres.

"As a result, the 34.7 million acres now enrolled in the program will have to shrink.

"And looking out over the next few years, we have 1.1 million CRP acres scheduled to expire on September 30th of this year, and that number jumps to 3.8 million acres on September 30th, 2009 and then 4.4 million acres on September 30th, 2010.

"So, large blocks of land will be available for other uses -- if land owners chose to pursue them."

The Agriculture secretary added that land owners also have the option of taking their acres out of the program early in exchange for returning all payments they have received plus interest and a penalty.

This spring, the number of acres being withdrawn early -- with financial benefits being repaid -- was more than 50 per cent higher than last year.

"The action we took in May to allow haying and foraging on up to 24 million CRP acres this year-after the primary nesting season ends-provided contract holders with another choice for managing their lands and feeding livestock," Mr Schafer said.

"We believe the decision that we are announcing today strikes the best possible balance between supporting programs that protect our natural resources and meeting the nation's need for grain production. "

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