Conservation Program - CRP Facts

Conservation Programs in Cotton
 

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for Cotton Producers

Updated: June 19, 2014

Overview:

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) can assist cotton producers establish long-term, resource conservation ground covers, such as native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filter strips, or riparian buffers on highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage. These practices protect water quality by reducing sedimentation and runoff. Through CRP, producers receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers such as such as tame or native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filter strips, or riparian buffers on highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage.

How it works:

Participants enroll in CRP contracts for 10 to 15 years and receive annual rental payments based on the agriculture rental value of the land, as well as cost-share assistance for up to 50 percent of the participant's costs in establishing approved conservation practices. Below summarizes the CRP incentives:

  • Rental Payments –based on the relative productivity of the soils within each county and the average dry land cash rent or cash-rent equivalent. The maximum CRP rental rate for each offer is calculated in advance of enrollment. Producers may offer land at that rate or offer a lower rental rate to increase the likelihood that their offer will be accepted.
  • Maintenance Incentive Payments - may include an additional amount up to $4 per acre per year as an incentive to perform certain maintenance obligations.
  • Cost-share Assistance – provided to participants who establish approved cover on eligible cropland, which can amount to not more than 50 percent of the participants' costs in establishing approved practices.
  • Other Incentives - additional financial incentives of up to 20 percent of the annual payment are also available for certain continuous sign-up practices.

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers CRP, while technical support functions are provided by: USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS); USDA's Extension Services; State forestry agencies; local soil and water conservation districts; and private sector providers of technical assistance.

Eligibility:

A cotton producer must have owned or operated the land for at least 12 months prior to close of the CRP sign-up period. Exceptions to this rule include: land acquired due to death; change in ownership due to foreclosure; or land that was purchased without the sole intention of placing it in CRP. The land enrolled must be cropland (including field margins) that is planted or considered planted to an agricultural commodity 4 of the previous 6 crop years from 1996 to 2001, and which is physically and legally capable of being planted in a normal manner to an agricultural commodity; or certain marginal pastureland that is suitable for use as a riparian buffer or for similar water quality purposes. In addition, cropland must meet one of the following criteria: 1) have a weighted average erosion index of 8 or higher; 2) be expiring CRP acreage; or 3) be located in a national or state CRP conservation priority area.

Improving the odds:

Cotton producers can offer land for CRP general sign-up enrollment only during designated sign-up periods. Environmentally desirable land devoted to certain conservation practices addressing priority issues, such as conserving bobwhite quail habitat, may be enrolled at any time under CRP continuous sign-up. Accepted conservation practices include: buffers for wildlife habitat, riparian buffer, wetlands buffer, wetland restoration, filter strips, grass waterways, shelter belts, living snow fences, contour grass strips, salt tolerant vegetation, and shallow water areas for wildlife. Certain eligibility requirements still apply, but the offers are not subject to competitive bidding.

General CRP sign-up only occurs when the Secretary of Agriculture announces USDA will accept bids for enrollment. General CRP sign-up is competitive and offers are ranked against each other on a national level.

Offers made during General CRP sign-up are ranked primarily on the environmental benefits that will result from the proposed conservation practices to be put in place. FSA assigns each offer an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) depending on the environmental sensitivity of the land and the type(s) of conservation practices proposed for it. It is this EBI that is used to rank offers against each other and selections for enrollment are made from that ranking.

Factors contributing to the EBI include:

  • Benefits to wildlife habitat
  • Benefits to water quality
  • Benefits to the farm itself from reduced erosion
  • Benefits to air quality
  • Benefits that will last beyond the contract period
  • Cost (of both annual rental payments and cost-share to establish conservation practices)

For information on upcoming sign-ups or to enroll in continuous sign-up, contact your local office:http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=us&agency=fsa.