By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., threatened to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) for resuming enrollment for the continuous signup portion of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) during a subcommittee hearing on May 15.
FSA announced earlier that day that it will accept applications beginning June 3 for certain practices under the “continuous” CRP signup, as well as reopen signup for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
Peterson told FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce that starting the signups for continuous contracts would discourage involvement in the general CRP sign-up later this year. FSA doesn’t plan to open the CRP general signup until December. Peterson also noted the payment rates for continuous CRP acres can be three times greater than payments under the general signup.
“This program has been hijacked by the continuous stuff,” Peterson said, later threatening to sue the agency for not properly implementing the 2018 farm law, which authorizes both continuous and general CRP enrollments. “If I have to sue you, I will,” Peterson told Fordyce. “Maybe you need to have the secretary call me.”
During the hearing, Fordyce said the agency is still “continuing to go through decisions” regarding the general signup and impacts of the 2018 farm law.
The law imposed new limits on payments under both types of CRP contracts. Payment rates will be capped at no more than 85 percent of the average county rental rate for general signup contracts and at no more than 90 percent of the county rental rate for the continuous signup.
USDA said this year’s continuous signup will accept grassed waterways, filter strips, riparian buffers and wetland restoration, among other conservation practices. Continuous signup enrollment contracts are 10 to 15 years in duration.
Under continuous CRP signup, environmentally sensitive land devoted to certain conservation practices can be enrolled in CRP at any time. Offers automatically are accepted provided the land and producer meet certain eligibility requirements and the enrollment levels do not exceed the statutory cap. Unlike CRP enrollments under general CRP signups, offers for continuous enrollment are not subject to competitive bidding during specific periods.