FIRE IN THE SKY – This breathtaking sunrise was captured by Amy Salois last week. This folks, is why we live in Montana. I-O Photo by Amy Salois
Bruce Nelson, Executive Director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Montana, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has set general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to begin on March 14, and continue through April 15.
During the signup period, Montana farmers and ranchers may offer eligible land for CRP’s competitive general signup at their county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.
“Over the past 25 years, CRP’s benefits have continued to grow — cleaner water, improved air quality, better habitat for wildlife and a huge reduction in soil erosion,” Nelson said. “This announcement reinforces this administration’s dedication to help Montana farmers and ranchers conserve natural resources on their land.”
Through the 2008 Farm Bill, CRP is authorized for a maximum enrollment of 32 million acres. USDA estimates that contracts on 3.3 million to 6.5 million acres are scheduled to expire annually between now and 2014.
Land currently not enrolled in CRP may be offered in this signup provided all eligibility requirements are met. Additionally, current CRP participants with contracts expiring this fall may make new contract offers. Contracts awarded under this signup are scheduled to become effective Oct. 1.
In Montana, 2.9 million acres of the state’s 18,721,501 cropland acres are currently actively enrolled in the CRP program. Of the state’s active CRP acres; 498,661 acres are scheduled to expire on Sept. 30; 696,523 acres on Sept. 30, 2012 and 638,841 acres on Sept. 30, 2013.
As administrator of the Conservation Reserve Program, FSA will evaluate and rank eligible CRP offers using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) that assists in calculating the environmental benefits to be gained from the contract.
The EBI consists of five environmental factors (wildlife, water, soil, air and enduring benefits). Cost factors are also entered into the equation.
In addition to the general sign-up, FSA’s CRP Continuous Sign-up Program is ongoing. Continuous acres represent the most environmentally desirable and sensitive land. For more information, visitwww.fsa.usda.gov and view Conservation Programs.