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More CRP options available in Minnesota

ST. PAUL — Poor crop prices are drawing renewed interest in the Conservation Reserve Program. Now, Minnesota farmers have more options to enroll land in CRP.

Up to 50,000 acres in Minnesota can be enrolled in the CP38E Rare and Declining Habitat Tall Grass Prairie State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program, says Grant Herfindahl, state executive director of the Farm Service Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"We think it's a pretty good program," he says.

The program — also known as Back Forty Pheasant Habitat — is designed to improve pheasant habitat, reduce soil erosion and improve water quality. Parcels of 10 to 40 acres are accepted into the program, which is reflected in the "Back Forty" name.

Minnesota's allotment of 50,000 acres is part of the 1.1 million acres available nationwide to restore high-priority wildlife habitat, FSA says.

Many farmers and landowners are talking, or beginning to talk, about renegotiating farmland rental rate contracts, Herfindahl says.

Parts of the parcels being discussed might be a good fit in CRP, a possibility that farmers and landowners could consider, he says.

Land accepted for the program can be farmed in the 2017 crop season before going into CRP on Oct. 1. So, coordinating planting plans for the coming crop season with preparations for CRP makes sense, he says.

CRP gives landowners an annual per-acre payment to take environmentally sensitive farmland out of production. Typically, the land receives a specially designed vegetative cover that reduces soil erosion, improves soil and air quality and develops wildlife habitat.

A second program

In a related development, FSA is nearly ready to announce its plans to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP, in Minnesota, Herfindahl says.

In that program, high-priority regional conservation goals first are identified by local, state or tribal governments or non-governmental organizations. Then, federal funds and other CRP resources are supplemented with nonfederal funds and resources to achieve those goals, FSA says.

In Minnesota, up to 60,000 acres in 54 counties could be earmarked for CREP to help protect water quality, Herfindahl says.

Details are expected to be announced early next year.

A third program

Finally, Minnesota FSA recently learned farmers in the state will be able to enroll an additional 30,000 acres into the Continuous CRP CP23A program.

CP23A seeks to "restore the functions and values of wetland ecosystems that are entirely outside the 100-year floodplain. The goal of the CP23A practice is the rehabilitation of a degraded wetland where the soils, hydrology, vegetative community and biological habitat are returned to the natural condition to the extent practicable," according to information from FSA.

Though interest in CRP is growing because of poor crop prices, national CRP acreage is capped at 24 million. That increases the importance of farmers and landlords identifying specific CRP programs for which their land might quality, Herfindahl says

"We want producers to be aware of these options," he says.

Herfindahl recommends farmers and landlords interested in CRP options contact FSA as soon as possible.

Some local FSA offices accept appointments, some do not.