USDA relaxes conservation reserve program rules to boost agricultural production | farm and ranch
Farm landowners who do not renew their agreements this year with the federal government to keep their land out of production have the option of putting that land back to work sooner, which could boost production of wheat and other crops in a context of global shortage, said the United States Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday.
Those with land on the conservation reserve scheme now have the option to terminate their contract early if they are in the final year of the contract. Under normal circumstances, landowners would have to wait until October to bring CRP land back into production or would be required to repay the money they received from the program.
“They can now voluntarily terminate without penalty the acres that come out of this program,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday, “so that they are able to work now on this land. , either to prepare it for a crop, or to possibly consider other crops that can be grown during the winter.
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He said the equivalent of about 1 million acres of farmland is leaving the program this year – the difference between expiring acres and newly enrolled acres this year. In March, about 22.1 million acres were actively registered, according to USDA data.
President Joe Biden has warned that people are “going to starve” if millions of tons of wheat and corn in Ukraine cannot be exported due to the ongoing Russian invasion, which began more than a decade ago. three months.
Ukraine is a major producer and exporter of these crops, much of which is sold to African countries. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian troops of destroying farms and stealing grain and equipment. It is not yet clear how much the war will affect Ukraine’s agricultural production this year.
Farm groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation have been waiting months for the USDA to bring CRP farmland back into production without penalty to help boost the world’s food supply.
In letters to CRP landowners this week, the USDA offered early terminations for those who had not renewed their registration.
Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s unwarranted invasion of Ukraine has cut off a critical source of wheat, corn, barley, oilseeds and cooking oil, and we’ve heard from many growers who want better understand their options to help meet global food needs,” Zach Ducheneaux, Administrator of the USDA Farm Service Agency, said in a press release Thursday. “This announcement will help producers make informed decisions about the land use and conservation options.”
CRP contracts typically last 10 to 15 years. Landowners set aside land to reduce soil erosion and improve water quality and wildlife habitat, and the government pays them by the acre. These rents vary considerably depending on the location of the land.
Iowa land payments have the highest average at around $234 per acre, according to a recent USDA report. Nevada land payments were lowest at around $10 per acre.
Landowners can end these contracts whenever they want, but they must repay the rents with interest and face a possible additional penalty. The USDA periodically offers early termination without refund or penalty. In 2017, the department offered it to certain landowners to encourage the sale of land to new farmers and breeders.
“I think it’s a big step in the right direction, but I believe we can do more,” U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, told Vilsack at a meeting of the Senate committee. agriculture on Thursday, which was convened to address the challenges facing farmers and rural communities.
Boozman said early terminations should be more widely offered to CRP participants to “potentially allow millions of acres to return to food production.”
Vilsack said the USDA seeks to balance short- and long-term global food concerns — particularly around climate change — and the CRP emphasizes less desirable farmland.
“We basically focused on highly erodible areas,” Vilsack said, “areas that aren’t particularly productive.”
Additional crop insurance
Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, said the USDA should offer to top up potential crop insurance payments to farmers who are late to plant this year.
Corn planting in North Dakota has been significantly delayed this year by wet weather. According to a recent USDA report, only 20% of the state’s corn was planted as of Sunday, compared to a five-year average of 66%.
Wednesday was the last planting day to get full crop insurance coverage for most counties in the state. Hoeven worries that some farmers don’t plant because it’s financially too risky.
“In times of food inflation, we want as many of them as possible to plant a crop,” he said.
Vilsack said he would consider the proposal.
USDA data shows that corn planting in at least 11 states is behind the five-year average, including most of the top producing states. Iowa leads the nation in corn production and, thanks to favorable weather, was on track to catch up to the five-year average on Sunday. Still, there are fears that delays in early sowing will affect yield potential.
Minnesota, a major corn producer, had planted 60% of its corn against a five-year average of 86% as of Sunday. Soybean plantings have also been significantly delayed in that state and in North Dakota.