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by Youth Programs intern Heather Teige

Two days ago, I had no idea what the CRP was or what it did. Needless to say, I felt a wee bit hesitant when asked to write about the CRP Transition Option and the Farm Service Agency’s decision to delay it for two years. If you find yourselves asking the same questions I did, I couldn’t be more excited to share what I’ve learned with you. As for those of you who have a leg up on the rest of us, I look forward to any additional information you can provide and to learning more from you.

What is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)?

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was first drafted in the 1950s to help address the land erosion and resulting water quality problems that run-off sediment from this land creates. The CRP’s goal is to take unhealthy land out of production until it is restored into environmentally sound topsoil. They do this by 1) awarding CRP contracts, which pay farmers an annual fee to not farm on eroded land, and 2) by giving farmers incentives to plant regenerative vegetable covers on their land instead.

What is the CRP Transition Option?

The 2008 Farm Bill introduced the CRP Transition Option which encourages CRP contracted farmers that aren’t looking to renew their contracts, to rent or sell their land to beginning or minority farmers who have agreed to return the land to production using food sustainable farming practices. The CRP encourages farmers to participate in the CRP Transition Option by granting them two extra years of rental payments even after their contracts have expired, and also works to ensure that the land will return to production in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.

Delaying the CRP Transition Option

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is planning to delay the use of the CRP Transition Option in order to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will review CRP program policies. Thing is, many contracts will expire between this and next year which means 4.2 million acres of land will be released back to production! If the CRP Transition Option is delayed we will have one less option to ensure that our land stays healthy and that it’s farmed using sustainable practices, as well as less farming opportunities for beginning and minority farmers. That’s why the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is sending a letter to Congress urging them not to delay implementation of the transition option.

Want to get involved? Sign the petition today!