USDA announces CRP signup, Peterson vows to block it
The Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency announced Wednesday that beginning June 3 it will accept applications for farmers to put land in the Conservation Reserve Program if they engage in certain practices and that the agency will also offer extensions for expiring CRP contracts.
But FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce also said that FSA will not hold a general CRP signup until December and that a Grasslands CRP signup will be held still later.
Fordyce announced the signups at a House Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee hearing Wednesday, but the decisions infuriated House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who came to the hearing and announced he would block the signup program even if he has to sue USDA.
Peterson said he believes that the continuous CRP will take up acreage that will go into the general signup. Much of the land that goes into the continuous CRP, which emphasizes improvements in water quality, “does almost zero good for wildlife,” Peterson said.
USDA is using rules under the 2014 farm bill for the continuous CRP signup but plans to engage in formal rulemaking for the general signup.
Peterson said he does not understand why USDA thinks it can hold one signup under the old rules and engage in rulemaking for the other.
Fordyce said that FSA determined “after thorough analysis” that the continuous CRP and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program could be opened for a signup. In a news release, Fordyce added that since passage of the 2018 farm bill last December, FSA “has carefully analyzed the language and determined that a limited signup prioritizing water-quality practices furthers conservation goals and makes sense for producers as FSA works to fully implement the program.”
This year’s signup will include such practices as grassed waterways, filter strips, riparian buffers, wetland restoration and others, FSA said.
Peterson noted that the rental rates that government pays for continuous CRP are higher than for the general program.
He said that the continuous program and CREP have “hijacked” the CRP, and vowed to stop the signup.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do to stop you — if I have to sue you, I will,” Peterson said.
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