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Agriculture Secretary Vilsack extends certain Conservation Reserve Program contracts

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will offer certain producers the opportunity to modify and extend their Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts that are scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.

USDA can only extend approximately 1.5 million acres out of a total 3.9 million acres expiring this year. This extension will ensure that FSA meets the statutory CRP acreage limitation of 32 million acres established in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.

"President Obama is committed to safeguarding the nation's natural resources and this program will help protect millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion and enhance the quality of our water," Vilsack said.

CRP is a voluntary program for agricultural landowners. CRP protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion and is designed to safeguard the Nation's natural resources. Participants receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland.

A general CRP signup is not scheduled during fiscal year 2009. However, producers may continue to enroll relatively small, highly-desirable acreages, including land that is not extended, into Continuous CRP. Continuous CRP includes such practices as filter strips and riparian buffers.

FSA will notify participants by letter beginning May 6, 2009. The sign-up for this voluntary extension will begin on May 18 and run through June 30, 2009. Farmers and ranchers may apply for this extension at their FSA county office. FSA administers CRP on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation.

CRP contracts with the highest environmental benefit or with the highest potential for soil erosion will be selected. CRP contracts can not exceed 15 years in the aggregate and chosen CRP contract holders will generally be offered a three to five year extension.

Producers electing to extend their contract period will receive their current contract rental rate. All or a portion of the acreage under contract may be included in an extension, but no new acreage may be added.

Through CRP, FSA enters into long term (10-15 year) contracts with agricultural producers to protect highly erodible and other environmentally-sensitive land. Participants convert enrolled land to grass, trees, wildlife habitats and other conservation uses. The program has reduced soil erosion by more than 400 million tons, protected more than 2 million acres of wetlands and resulted in buffers established on more than 100,000 miles of streams and rivers.

For more information about CRP and other FSA programs, please visit your county FSA office or go to