United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the Farm Service Agency opened signup for the Conservation Reserve Program. The deadline to sign up for general CRP is Feb. 28, 2020, while signup for continuous CRP is ongoing. As a reminder to interested landowners, an appointment is required for FSA personnel to assist an interested participant.
    Farmers and ranchers who enroll in CRP receive a yearly rental payment for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. The CRP is one of our nation’s largest conservation endeavors and a critical tool to help producers better manage their operations while conserving natural resources.
    Within the CRP, interested landowners have several choices in evaluating which option may best fit for their individual situation.
    General sign up. CRP general sign up will be held annually. The competitive general sign up will now include increased opportunities for enrollment of wildlife habitat through the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement initiative.
    Continuous sign up. While some practices under SAFE will remain available through continuous signup, CRP continuous sign up will focus primarily on water quality within the Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR) Initiative. The 2018 farm bill prioritizes water quality practices such as contour grass strips, filter strips, riparian buffers, wetlands and a new prairie strip.
    The United States Department of Agriculture will also be working with Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program partners to relaunch CREP continuous options in each state under new statutory provisions. CREP will continue to target high-priority local, state or regional conservation concerns.
    Grasslands sign up. CRP grasslands sign up helps landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland, and pastureland and certain other lands while maintaining the areas as grazing lands. A separate CRP grasslands sign up will be offered each year following general sign up. The period for CRP grasslands sign up in 2020 runs from March 16 to May 15.
    Land transition. The CRP Transition Incentives Program is an option for producers interested in transitioning land to a beginning farmer or rancher or a member of a socially disadvantaged group to return land to production for sustainable grazing or crop production. CRP contract holders no longer need to be a retired or retiring owner or operator to transition their land. TIP participants may have a lease less than five years with an option to purchase, and they have two years before the end of the CRP contract to make conservation and land improvements.
    Previously expired land. Land enrolled in CRP under a 15-year contract that expired in September 2017, 2018 or 2019, may be eligible for enrollment if there was no opportunity for re-enrollment and the practice under the expired contract has been maintained.
    FSA recently posted updated soil rental rates for CRP. Soil rental rates are statutorily prorated at 90% for continuous signup and 85% for general signup. The rental rates will be reviewed annually. Under continuous signup, producers also receive incentives, including a signup incentive payment and a practice incentive payment.
    To enroll in CRP, contact a FSA county office or visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/crp.
    Farm Service Agency is an Equal Opportunity Lender. Complaints about discrimination should be sent to: Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250. Visit the Farm Service Agency Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov/ for necessary application forms and updates on USDA programs.