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Keeping The "O" Out of CRP

posted on November 24, 2006


Land use is part of the supply and demand equation that determines whether a less petroleum-based economy will work. To that end, farmers enrolled in government conservation programs have some decisions to make. Do they take highly erodible land out of conservation programs to plant high-revenue crops ... or do they stay with government programs that pay them not to plant?

Early indications are the majority will stick with a sure thing.

Keeping The With high prices for wheat and corn, government officials were expecting that many farmers would elect to leave the Conservation Reserve Program and return idled land to crop production but it appears that most CRP acres will remain in the program.

Preliminary data show that of the 16 million acres scheduled to come out of the CRP in 2007, around 13 million acres will stay with the program through re-enrollment or contract extensions. The roughly 81% retention rate that USDA officials are expecting next year would be about average during re-enrollment periods, but is unexpected given current prices for wheat and corn.

A USDA study shows that one factor for the high retention rate could be that as much as one-seventh of the 37million CRP acres is not suitable for planting corn. A lack of resources and money that make it possible to efficiently turn idle acres into tillable land could be another factor.

The CRP program pays farmers nearly 2 billion dollars a year to keep environmentally sensitive land out of production. According to one USDA official, many farmers with contracts that expire in 2007 have "yet to sign on the dotted line," and still may decide to grow crops.


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