Vital Conservation Program Spared

Conservation Reserve Program Spared by USDA Last month we had written you about the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) being under attack by USDA. Now Agriculture Secretary Johanns, while standing behind an earlier decision not to hold a general signup this year, has decided to spare the program at least for 2007 from allowing farmers to abandon their CRP contracts to grow more corn. He has also softened his stance regarding a general CRP signup for 2008. See USDA letter below. Enacted under the Farm Bill 20 years ago, the CRP program pays farmers to set aside land for protection of soil, water and wildlife. The program has enrolled some 36-million acres, more land than in the entire National Wildlife Refuge system in the lower 48 states and has been critical to maintaining wildlife populations on the landscape. Through CRP, farmers and ranchers have helped protect the environment for future generations by restoring 2-million acres of wetlands and adjacent buffers, protecting 170 thousand miles of streams, sequestering 48 million tons of carbon dioxide, safeguarding water supplies for major cities including New York; Columbus, Ohio; and Raleigh, North Carolina; and supporting 2.2 million ducks per year in the Prairie Pothole region. USDA Release: Release No. 0085.07 Contact: Press Office (202)7204623 STATEMENT BY AGRICULTURE SECRETARY MIKE JOHANNS REGARDING THE CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM March 30, 2007 "Today's report on planting intentions suggests that market forces are inspiring changes that will help to meet the high demand for corn. According to the report, U.S. farmers intend to plant 15 percent more corn acres, 90.5 million acres, in 2007. This would be an increase of 12 million acres over 2006 and the largest number since 1944. "In light of this information, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will not offer penalty-free early releases from Conservation Reserve Program contracts at this time. As circumstances exist today, I would not anticipate a change in this policy in 2007. "At the same time, we are not planning to conduct a general CRP signup in 2007. We have offered new general CRP signups only four of the past seven years. Although we have assumed for budget purposes that there would be no new general CRP enrollments during the next two years, I am open to the possibility of new enrollments for 2008. "I want to emphasize, acres under continuous CRP signup, such as filter strips, riparian buffers and others, are not impacted by general signup decisions. Enrollment of acres that qualify for continuous signup is ongoing. In fact, last week, USDA announced our intention to enroll 500,000 acres in new continuous CRP contracts to address the specific habitat needs of fish or wildlife, including at-risk species, on a state by state basis. "While I believe today's report on planting intentions will help to ease concern about our corn supply, I will continue to closely monitor the situation. I will not hesitate in the future to make adjustments to USDA programs if needed to achieve a balance in the agricultural sector." # The National Wildlife Federation is America’s conservation organization protecting wildlife for our children’s future. www.nwf.org .