The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup is upon us and it’s decision time! With current grain prices, many of you may be contemplating whether or not to re-enroll your CRP acres. One option for your consideration is presented below to help you make an educated decision on the future of your CRP. Last week we covered options for re-enrolling in CRP. This week we discuss options to take advantage of CRP buffers.
Landowners converting their expiring CRP fields into soybean and corn fields or pasture should consider leaving field borders along the field edges and wide buffers next to streams and ponds. Landowners can enroll these sensitive areas into popular Continuous CRP practices such as CP21 Filter Strip, CP22 Riparian Forest Buffer and CP33 Habitat Buffer for Upland Birds. Landowners will still receive an annual soil rental payment and incentives for enrolling the margins of their fields into the Continuous CRP. In some cases the payment is higher because of sign-up incentives. USDA announced this month that they will increase incentives on a number of Continuous CRP practices another $50 per acre, bringing the total sign-up incentives to $150 per acre! Landowners can even receive up to 90 percent cost share for establishing the proper vegetation.
Maintaining buffers around the edges of crop fields not only provides great habitat for quail and other grassland birds, but also takes marginally productive ground out of production. With high input costs and low yields it makes sense to keep field edges and buffers in CRP. In 2008, the University of Missouri Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute found that corn prices need to be over $6 for 10 years in order to out-perform profit gains from CP33. Since that study CRP rental rates have been raised several times and many cropfield inputs have increased. Remember to Farm the Best, Buffer the Rest!
Visit your county USDA Farm Service Agency for your options under the Continuous CRP. You can sign up for Continuous CRP practices at any time, even after the General CRP signup ends on April 6.
Next week we discussed a third option for expiring CRP and that is farming or grazing portions of what is now in CRP.