WASHINGTON, D.C. - Moving quickly to help farmers who face difficult planting decisions as a result of uncertainty surrounding sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the full House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed legislation to provide one-year CRP contracts to potential producers of fall-planted crops.
The bill - H.R. 1342, which was introduced and shepherded 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 USDA 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. H.R. 1342 was overwhelmingly passed by a margin of 325-92.
"Our CRP bill is a simple correction that will allow farmers to know now that they can be in CRP for the coming crop year. It's only fair to provide certainty for farmers who, through no fault of their own, have such little planting flexibility. Thankfully, the House has recognized the bind that fall-planted crop farmers are in, and acted quickly to provide them with some certainty," said Smith.
"I'm delighted the full House recognized the severity of this problem. I hope the Senate will act just as quickly to pass a Senate version of the bill, and that the Administration will recognize how important this is to farmers of winter wheat, barley, and oats," 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 rent 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 on 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.