The U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow Conservation Reserve Program participants who are in the final year of their contract to request voluntary termination following the end of the primary nesting season. Participants approved for the one-time, voluntary termination won’t be required to repay rental payments.
The step is being taken to help mitigate food-supply challenges caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other factors. The USDA also is offering flexibilities for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program.
The USDA’s Farm Service Agency is mailing letters to producers with expiring acres. The letter will detail the program flexibility and other options, such as re-enrolling sensitive acres in the Conservation Reserve Program continuous signup.
If approved for voluntary termination preparations can occur after conclusion of the primary nesting season. Producers will then be able to hay, graze, begin land-preparation activities or plant a fall-seeded crop before Oct. 1. The flexibility may allow for better establishment of a winter-wheat crop or help producers in northern areas better prepare land for spring planting.
Since Conservation Reserve Program land typically doesn’t have a recent history of pesticide application, the USDA is encouraging producers to consider organic production. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance for planning and implementing conservation practices. That includes practices that work well for organic operations, such as pest management and mulching. The Farm Service Agency offers cost-share for certification costs and other fees.
Participants also may choose to enroll all or part of their expiring acres into the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program signup for 2022. Conservation benefits may still be achieved by re-enrolling sensitive acres such as buffers or wetlands.
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Expiring water-quality practices such as filter strips, grass waterways and riparian buffers may be eligible to be reenrolled in the Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers – CLEAR – and CLEAR 30 options in the Conservation Reserve Program. Expiring continuous Conservation Reserve Program practices such as shelterbelts, field windbreaks and other buffer practices also may be re-enrolled to provide organic-farming benefits.
If producers aren’t planning to farm land from their expiring contract, the Transition Incentives Program may provide them two additional annual rental payments after their contract expires. That’s on the condition they sell or rent their land to a beginning or veteran farmer or rancher, or a member of a socially disadvantaged group.
Producers interested in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program signup, Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers, or the Transition Incentives Program should contact the Farm Service Agency by Aug. 5.
USDA also encourages producers to consider the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. Those Natural Resources Conservation Service programs can help producers plant cover crops, manage nutrients and improve irrigation and grazing systems.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program or state- or private-easement programs may be such an option. In many cases a combination of approaches can be taken on the same parcel.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering new flexibility for participants who have cover cropping included in their existing contracts in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program or Conservation Stewardship Program. The agency will allow participants to either modify their plans to plant a cover crop – and instead shift to a conservation-crop rotation – or delay their cover crop plans a year, without needing to terminate the existing contract.