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CRP expands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it will offer early re-enrollments and contract extensions for acres currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), beginning with the 16 million acres set to expire from the program in 2007.

Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced Wednesday, Aug. 4, that the agency hopes to reach full enrollment — up to 39.2 million acres — in the program by offering the early re-enrollment and contract extensions.

With that in mind, the USDA is also planning to implement two new initiatives — the bobwhite quail and wetlands restoration initiatives. The first initiative is expected to generate $125 million in payments to participants through 2007 and create 250,000 acres of habitat, mostly in the Midwest and Southeast, for the northern bobwhite quail. In the second initiative, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) will spend a total $200 million to provide 250,000 acres of wetland habitat for upland ducks, pheasants and sandhill cranes.

Producers hoping to participate in the initiatives can sign up beginning Oct. 1 at local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. For more information, visit FSA’s Web site, www.fsa.usda.gov.

Program opportunities
General CRP sign-up will be Aug. 30-Sept. 24. The CRP offers landowners a chance to protect cropland from erosion, reduce runoff and improve water conditions while conserving wildlife populations. Program participants receive annual rental payments and up to 50% of conservation costs for removing land from ag production and agreeing to 10- to 15-year contracts. Since limited acreage is available for enrollment, interested producers are encouraged to work through their local USDA FSA offices. Offers accepted by the program will become effective Oct. 1, 2005 or 2006, depending on the producer. For more information, visit a local FSA office or www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crpinfo.htm.

The USDA is also seeking public comment on the future of CRP. The request appears in the Federal Register, available at www.fsa.usda.gov. Written comments must be received within 120 days after the request is published in the Federal Register. For more information contact Beverly Preston, CRP manager, at (202) 720-9563 or beverly_preston@wdc.usda.gov.

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