Thune, Donnelly Lead Bipartisan Letter Urging USDA to Maximize CRP Enrollment, Conduct General Signup | TSLN.com

Thune, Donnelly Lead Bipartisan Letter Urging USDA to Maximize CRP Enrollment, Conduct General Signup

Today, U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) led a bipartisan group of 10 senators in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack strongly encouraging him to take whatever steps necessary, including conducting a general signup in fiscal year 2015, to keep Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) enrollment near the annual acreage caps authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill.

"CRP has evolved over the past 30 years into a versatile soil and water conservation and wildlife habitat program, that also provides a solid economic alternative for farmers in place of producing expensive crops on marginal land," said Thune. "Because general CRP signups account for the highest percentage of enrolled acres and are the most cost-effective, we need a general CRP signup each year to keep enrollment at its maximum level."

"The Conservation Reserve Program is critical to reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, and providing wildlife habitats," said Donnelly. "This program helps both our agriculture businesses and conservation efforts. That is why my Senate colleagues and I are urging the USDA to make sure that eligible landowners have every opportunity to participate. I appreciate the opportunity to work with Senator Thune on this bipartisan effort."

First authorized under the 1985 Farm Bill, CRP is administered USDA. CRP enrollment peaked at 37 million acres in 2007, but has dropped to its current enrollment of 24.29 million acres. The 2014 Farm Bill-authorized nationwide CRP acreage cap for fiscal year 2015 is 26 million acres. More than 1.9 million acres enrolled in CRP contracts expire September 30, 2015. Unless a large number of acres are enrolled in CRP during the remainder of Fiscal Year 2015, CRP enrollment may be nearly 3.6 million acres under the enrolled acreage cap at the end of this fiscal year.

More than 18 million acres or about 75 percent of the current CRP enrollment of 24.29 million acres enrolled via general signups, which indicates the important contribution general CRP signups are to overall enrollment. To emphasize cost-effectiveness of general CRP signups, the average rental rate for acres enrolled under general CRP signups is $66.34 and the average rental rate for acres enrolled in continuous CRP is $110.89.

Joining Thune and Donnelly in their letter are Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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–Senator Thune