WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency announced Monday it will suspend accepting most new offers to enroll land in the Conservation Reserve Program until later in the 2018 fiscal year.
In the meantime, FSA "will process many pending eligible offers," the agency said in a news release.
"All current, eligible CRP continuous enrollment offers made through Sept. 30, 2017 -- except for those made under the Pollinator Habitat Initiative (CP42) -- will be approved," said Steven J. Peterson, FSA acting administrator.
"Additionally, we are temporarily suspending acceptance of most offers going forward to provide time to review CRP allocation levels, and to avoid exceeding the statutory cap of 24 million acres."
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Current enrollment is about 23.5 million acres nationwide, the agency said.
Peterson said, however, that USDA will continue to accept eligible offers for state-specific Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and CRP Grasslands enrollment. Offers received on or after Oct. 1, 2017, are subject to fiscal year 2018 rental rates, which have been adjusted to reflect current market conditions and were established after careful review of the latest USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service cash rent data.
Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said the announcement is "simply a recognition that with acreage so close to the cap, they need to be careful with new CCRP enrollments so as not to accidentally exceed the cap. CREPs have their own acreage caps, so those that are under their specific cap can still be enrolled. The pollinator initiative is maxed out, so there are some offers that are currently being declined."
Hoefner added, "The important thing for farmers to note is that you can still make offers to enroll partial field, targeted conservation buffer areas and special wildlife offerings in the CCRP (or continuous sign-up)."
"Later in the year, when they have a full accounting of space under the 24 million cap, I assume they will start enrolling those CCRP acres in the order in which they were submitted," he said.
"So farmers who want to get in line to enroll riparian buffers or contour grass strips or special wildlife habitat should continue to do so and not be discouraged by the temporary suspension. If they want to enroll, they should get their offer in now, to be first in line when it reopens."
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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