Beginning Jan. 9, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering an early termination opportunity for certain Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts in order to make it easier to transfer property to the next generation of farmers and ranchers, including family members. Normally if a landowner terminates a CRP contract early, they are required to repay all previous payments plus interest. The new policy waives this repayment if the land is transferred to a beginning farmer or rancher through a sale or lease with an option to buy.
This program comes with additional benefits for beginning farmers and ranchers and for conservation efforts. First, acres terminated early from CRP under this program will be eligible for priority enrollment consideration into the CRP Grasslands, if eligible; or the Conservation Stewardship Program or Environmental Quality Incentives Program, as determined by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This means additional funding support for the new generation of farmers and ranchers. Second, since the land that is eligible for the early termination is among the least environmentally sensitive land enrolled in CRP, this program means that USDA can enroll other land with higher conservation value elsewhere while still meeting the Congressionally-mandated cap of 24 million acres.
This change to the CRP program is just one of many that USDA has implemented based on recommendations from the Land Tenure Advisory Subcommittee formed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2015. The subcommittee was asked to identify ways the department could use or modify its programs, regulations, and practices to address the challenges of beginning farmers and ranchers in their access to land, capital and technical assistance.
On announcing the program while touring the Joe Dunn farm in Iowa, Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam said, “The chance to give young farmers a better opportunity to succeed when starting a farming career makes perfect sense. There are Conservation Reserve Program acres that are rested and ready to be productive, an original goal of CRP.”
Details on the early termination opportunity are available at local USDA service centers. For more information about CRP and to find out if your acreage is eligible for early contract termination, contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office or go online at www.fsa.usda.gov/crp. To locate your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov/.