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Friday, January 28, 2022 - 4:50pm

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2022 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses in the path of the forecast nor’easter that USDA has programs that provide assistance in the wake of disasters. The storm is expected to bring heavy snow and winds at near hurricane force to coastal areas from Maryland to Maine this weekend.

Friday, January 28, 2022 - 10:32am
A conservation partnership between CRP and ranchers protects seven miles of
Little Bitterroot River in Montana. Photo credit: USDA

For more than 35 years, the Farm Bill’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has paid farmers and landowners to take highly erodible and other environmentally sensitive lands out of crop production and enroll them instead in conserving practices. Through CRP, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) pays farmers to set aside land for grass or tree cover for a period of 10 or 15 years. This set aside period helps keep soil in place, prevent water pollution, and create beneficial wildlife and pollinator habitats.

On January 26, USDA announced the following CRP enrollment opportunities:

  • The CRP general signup is open from January 31 until March 11, 2022. With 22.5 million acres currently enrolled, Farm Service Agency (FSA) hopes to reach the 25.5 million acre cap set for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. If your bid is accepted, be prepared to request a conservation plan from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) by April 15, 2022.
  • The Grassland Initiative is open from April 4 until May 13, 2022, and is intended to help farmers with rangeland, pastureland, and similar working lands.
  • CRP Continuous signup for automatic, non-competitive enrollment of partial fields and conservation buffers is also open. Hopefully, this time it will remain open continuously through 2023 and beyond. 

Last year, FSA enacted a Climate-Smart Practice Incentive for CRP General and Continuous signups, to better target CRP to address climate change. Producers can receive a 3-10% increase in their annual rental payment for utilizing practices that store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This incentive still applies to the 2022 signups.

CRP General Signup

Historically, general signups have occurred whenever USDA determined there was sufficient demand and acres available to warrant a general enrollment. Under the terms of the 2018 Farm Bill, however, USDA has been directed to hold a general signup enrollment each year.

The 2022 CRP General signup will open on January 31, 2022, and will close on March 11, 2022

For many conservation-minded farm owners, CRP can provide much-needed financial relief and serve as an environmental lifeline. Many farmers feel pressure to plant on marginal and highly erodible lands in order to maximize the return on their arable land. This is an understandable, short-term financial decision, but it can have long-term detrimental effects on the health of the farm, surrounding environment, and can often actually lower profits per acre.

In order to best serve producers while also safeguarding our shared natural resources and the taxpayers’ investment, USDA must manage CRP in a manner that maximizes environmental benefits. To accomplish this, applicants are ranked using the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) to help determine how much ecological good each bid creates. The maximum possible score is 545 and each signup includes a minimum required score to qualify for enrollment. The 2021 general signup saw historically low minimum required EBI scores of 175 and 165 in select states. This means that the 2021 signup created far less environmental benefit per acre compared to past signups.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) encourages USDA to keep this in mind as it proceeds with the 2022 general signup. We believe it would be ill-advised to attempt to reach the 25.5 million acres cap for the program with this signup if it interferes with the continuous signup, or if it requires accepting bids with low environmental value and thereby recreates the mistakes of 2021.

The Grasslands Program

CRP’s Grasslands Program is unique in that it is more of a working lands program than a land retirement program. The next signup for the Grasslands Program will begin once general CRP signup ends – tentatively, on April 4th and run through May 13th. The grassland enrollment prioritizes expiring CRP contracts, lands at risk of conversion or development, and grasslands that are important to wildlife and the local ecosystem.

Continuous Signup

Back in the 1990s, NSAC helped to ensure that Congress and USDA recognized the benefits of partial field enrollments of specialized conservation buffer practices (e.g., riparian buffers, filter strips, field windbreaks, contour strips, and grass waterways) on water quality and soil health. Today, farmers and landowners can enroll these buffer practices into CRP without any competitive bidding on a continuous basis. Though now reopened, the continuous signup has been put on hold several times over the last few years due to concerns about available space within the program’s acreage cap. With proper management of CRP by USDA, there is no reason why it should close.

Additional Resources Important dates for the CRP General Signup

Source: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_Notice/crp_956.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

New Rule on CRP

CRP is still operating under an Interim Final Rule.  The rule incorporates changes from the 2018 Farm Bill, including new, lower rental rate payments. General signup enrollments will now be limited to 85 percent of county average rental rates and continuous signup enrollments limited to 90 percent of county average rental rates. Additionally, FSA made edits to the Interim Final Rule in December of last year. The first change eliminates the payment reduction for famers installing edge of field buffers in states where buffers are already required. The second change eliminates the 50% cash match requirement for non-federal CREP partners. NSAC advocated for both changes in public comments and is excited to see them implemented in the program. See FSA’s press release here.

The post CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM SIGNUP BEGINS JANUARY 31, 2022 appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Thursday, January 27, 2022 - 4:15pm

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2022 – Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to appoint five U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regional positions, including four Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Directors and one Rural Development (RD) State Director.

Thursday, January 27, 2022 - 12:00am
The 2022 Midwest Women in Agriculture Conference kicks off Feb. 9 for two days of special guest speakers, networking opportunities and breakout sessions that address personal, farm and family issues affecting women, families and farm businesses.
Wednesday, January 26, 2022 - 1:00pm

BESSEMER, Ala., Jan. 26, 2022 – United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Dr. Jewel Bronaugh today announced that USDA is investing $1 billion to build and improve critical community facilities in 48 states, Puerto Rico and Guam (PDF, 449 KB). This infrastructure funding will increase access to health care, education and public safety while spurring community development and building sound infrastructure for people living in rural communities.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022 - 12:00pm

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today the plenary speakers for the 2022 Agricultural Outlook Forum, themed “New Paths to Sustainability and Productivity Growth,” which will be held virtually Feb. 24–25, 2022.

The opening plenary session will feature a fireside chat between Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Elizabeth Economy, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Commerce. Secretary Vilsack and Dr. Economy will discuss U.S.-China agricultural trade relations and prospects for the Chinese agriculture market.

Monday, January 24, 2022 - 9:12am

Food loss and waste is estimated to be roughly one third of the food intended for human consumption in the United States. When food is discarded, all inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, and storing discarded food are also wasted. Food loss and waste also exacerbates the climate change crisis with its significant greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. Production, transportation, and handling of food generate significant Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions and when food ends up in landfills, it generates methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas.

Monday, January 24, 2022 - 12:00am
Story August will mark 50 years since President Richard Nixon signed the Rural Development Act of 1972, creating the Rural Regional Development Centers located throughout the United States.
Friday, January 21, 2022 - 5:00pm

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Jan. 21, 2022 – Vice President Kamala Harris and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $1.36 billion in disaster relief funds for the USDA Forest Service to support post-disaster recovery and restoration in states across the country, including nearly $600 million for recovery efforts in California following the devastating 2020 and 2021 fire years. The funding was announced during a visit to the San Bernardino National Forest in California.

Friday, January 21, 2022 - 12:00pm

WASHINGTON, January 21, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) today highlighted some of the office’s key accomplishments in 2021 that support creating better markets and expanding climate-smart agriculture.

“Over the past year, our staff provided economic expertise, timely analyses, and coordination for several key activities and initiatives ranging from economic intelligence and commodity outlook forecasting to climate change adaptation strategies and pest management policy,” said USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer.

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