Historically low global crop supplies are causing volatile market conditions which increases feed costs for dairy and livestock farmers. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation wants to relieve some of the market’s pressure by allowing farmers to grow crops on certain acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) without penalty.

“The early-out, penalty-free release of non-environmentally sensitive CRP cropland would help encourage increased supply and allow Wisconsin farm families to benefit from a strong global market demand,” said Bill Bruins, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President.

The federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) pays landowners for idling tracts of farmland for contractual periods of 10 to 15 years. Nationally the contracts on 4.4 million acres are set to expire on September 30, 2011.

“There is a great need for additional acres of crop production this year as global stocks of basic crops like corn, soybeans and wheat will be extremely tight by summer, leaving little room for anything less than a bumper crop,” said Bruins. “The release of additional CRP acres could help ensure that grain and oilseed production adequately meet the demand for food and feed, as increased feed costs are eating away at profitable margins for dairy and livestock farmers.” 

“While it has largely become viewed as a conservation program, CRP was created in the 1985 Farm Bill partly to balance faltering grain markets at the time,” Bruins said. “Today we face a completely different situation. Allowing farmers an early release from these contracts without penalty could not only release some of the steam off of today’s grain markets, but it will also help cash-strapped U.S. consumers who will not be insulated from the precarious supply and demand dilemma we now face. Not having to pay out CRP payments on those acres would also save the federal government some money.”

To be successful, an early-out CRP option would have to be done quickly. Therefore the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation has discussed the issue with some members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation who could either draft legislation or assist in calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove the penalties for ending CRP early via emergency rule.  

“Time is of the essence,” Bruins said. “Delaying a decision will make it too late for CRP contract-holders to make the necessary decisions and investments to get that land into production this spring.”

“The Wisconsin Farm Bureau wishes to work with our congressional delegation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promptly provide an early-out, penalty-free option for non-environmentally sensitive CRP cropland,” Bruins concluded.


Additional Information on the Conservation Reserve Program

* The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was created in the 1985 U.S. Farm Bill to address environmental goals as well as to reduce crop production in order to stabilize crop prices.

* With a 2007 budget of almost $2 billion, CRP is the largest federally funded conservation program.

* CRP acreage ballooned in 2007 to an all-time high of just under 37 million acres. Today, over 31 million acres are now enrolled. The program is capped at 32 million acres. It’s unclear whether enrollment will get back to 32 million acres as contracts on 4.4 million acres are set to expire on September 30. Many predict total acreage is likely to decrease as some non-environmentally sensitive fields are returned to growing crops.

* A sign-up period for new CRP contracts begins March 14 for contracts that start this fall.

* There are approximately 400,000 acres in Wisconsin that are enrolled in either CRP or the similar Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

Source: Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation