CRP Acreage Cap Limits Enrollment During General Sign-Up

CRP Acreage Cap Limits Enrollment During General Sign-Up

Lower crop prices appear to be driving strong interest in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), but the new acreage cap on CRP established by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill will limit participation, according to the Wildlife Management Institute.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Services Agency (FSA) closed the most recent general sign-up for CRP on February 26. While FSA has not released final figures, the agency reports strong interest and notes that there will almost certainly be more applications for the program than they can accept.

CRP was cut from 39 million acres to 32 million acres in the 2008 Farm Bill and then Congress made an even steeper cut to 24 million acres in the 2014 Farm Bill. The cuts were staggered each fiscal year from 27.5 million acres in 2014 to 26 million acres in 2015 to 25 million acres this year to 24 million acres in 2017 and 2018. Currently there are 23.5 million acres enrolled with contracts on 1.6 million acres due to expire this fall.

When crop prices are high, producers try to keep as much land in production as possible, including less productive ground that often is environmentally sensitive. As prices drop, farmers see USDA conservation programs as a good alternative to growing crops on marginal lands. The combination of the lower cap on the program and high interest due to lower crop prices will cause the FSA to be more selective on lands it accepts for CRP from this recent enrollment period.

"The Conservation Reserve Program has been and continues to be a key piece of USDA's conservation strategy, and with this competitive sign-up, we encouraged applications that offer the greatest environmental protection," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a recent statement.

Hopefully this strong interest in CRP will send a message to Congress as they begin to consider a new Farm Bill in a couple of years. (pmr)

March 16, 2016