By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy
Administered by the Farm Service Agency, (FSA) the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) awards producers rental payments for taking environmentally sensitive land out of production. Contracts last between 10-15 years, at which point, a producer can either re-enroll or put the land back into production. In some cases, a producer participating in CRP may not have a solid management plan for the enrolled land when the contract expires. The CRP Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) allows the contract holder to receive two additional years of rental payments from FSA if they transfer the land to a beginning, socially disadvantaged, or veteran producer who agrees to use sustainable grazing or farming methods. A year before the CRP contract expires, a qualifying lessee can make improvements to the land in question.
Generally, producers enroll land that is challenging to work in CRP, so a beginning producer may be able to secure it at a competitive price. Land coming out of CRP may also have better soil health than recently tilled land, and may be eligible for organic certification more quickly or easily than land recently in conventional production. It should be noted, however, that landowners cannot utilize CRP-TIP to transfer land between family members.
Interested beginning producers can speak to landowners in their area to find land under a CRP contract that may be expiring soon. FSA’s website has more information here, or visit your local FSA office for more information. Additionally, FSA’s TIP Net connects retired or retiring land owners or operators with beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers who are interested in TIP.
Do you know of land under CRP contracts in your community? Are the advantages of working land newly released from reserve compelling to you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.