WASHINGTON, D.C. - Heeding the concerns of thousands of farmers, the House Committee on Agriculture today overwhelmingly passed legislation providing a one-year bridge contract for farmers whose Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts are expiring, and for whom the uncertainty of enrollment in CRP has limited fall planting flexibility.
The bill, H.R. 1342, which was introduced by Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR), allows farmers, whose CRP contracts are expiring in September and who would in the absence of CRP produce a fall-planted crop, to enter into a one-year contract while the U.S. Department of Agriculture evaluates their CRP bid. If the farmer's land is ultimately accepted into CRP, the contract would automatically convert to a standard ten-year contract; if the land is rejected, it would come out of CRP after the one-year contract's end which could be re-bid in a subsequent signup.
"This bill is not an extension. It is a technical correction that will allow farmers to know now that they can be in the CRP for the coming crop year. If the Secretary awards them a new ten-year contract, then they would be taken care of. If not, then they would be out of the program after the coming year and their CRP acres would return to the pool to be awarded to someone else. It's only fair to provide certainty for those farmers who, through no fault of their own, have such little planting flexibility. Our job now is to act quickly, get this bill on the House floor, and keep the process moving," Smith said.
Under CRP, which was reauthorized in the 1996 Farm Bill, landowners enter into contracts with the USDA to place highly erodible and other environmentally sensitive cropland in long-term conservation practices for 10-15 years. In exchange, landowners receive annual rental payments for the land and cost-share assistance for establishing those practices. Of 32.9 million acres currently enrolled nationwide, some 22 million acres are expiring September 30.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives.