USDA EXPANDS CRP USE DEFINITIONS
USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced several refinements to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), including changes to enrollment eligibility, new software development and the timing of a future general CRP sign-up.
A final rule, published last Friday in the Federal Register, adopts changes made to CRP by the 2002 Farm Bill, including an increase in the acreage cap by 2.8 million acres to a total of 39.2 million acres, expanding eligible acreage, extending the farmable wetlands program nationwide and permitting managed haying and grazing of CRP land.
The rule also expands the "conserving use" definition to allow cropland previously enrolled in CRP that continues to be maintained as though enrolled in CRP to be considered as "conserving use."
This expanded definition allows this land to be eligible for future sign-ups. The final rule adds certain marginal pasturelands for riparian buffers or similar water quality purposes as eligible land, as well.
New technology should speed up the bidding process. Several software advancements will contribute to better administration of the CRP, USDA said.
FSA has developed new web-based software that will more efficiently rank offers based on environmental benefits and cost, calculate maximum payment rates and provide eligibility determinations.
USDA earlier announced its intention to conduct another general sign-up in early 2004. USDA now plans to issue the details of the next general sign-up in the summer, when agricultural market conditions and demands for resource use of this year's crop become clearer.
More information on CRP is available at local FSA offices and on FSA's Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov