To that end, USDA will allow Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participants who are in the final year of their contracts to request voluntary termination, reported the federal agency in a May 26, 2022, press release. All totaled, this early release provision makes 18% of the existing CRP contracts eligible for a fall-seeded crop prior to October 1, 2022. Likewise, USDA will make early release CRP acres available for haymaking and grazing. The 18% eligibility figure is based on 4 million acres in which contracts will expire at year’s end from a total 22 million acres.
The early release is dependent on the end of the primary nesting season for the 2022 fiscal year. Those dates vary by state and are detailed in this map. Many states can begin planting by August 1 or sooner. However, several Southeast states will have to wait until mid to late August.
To be clear, this is a voluntary option. Participants approved for this one-time, voluntary termination will not have to repay rental payments. This unique situation where farmers can keep the USDA payment and still plant early was implemented for only this year to help mitigate the global food supply challenges caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That region is a major grain exporter and source of food for many people throughout the world.
In all, USDA has 558,817 existing CRP contracts with 315,295 farmers across the country. This early release will create a great deal of paperwork. To make full preparations, CRP contract holders can review a copy of this USDA letter that was mailed to all producers with expiring contracts.
In another provision, USDA is offering more flexibility for farmers who enrolled land into Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). In both cases, EQIP and CSP holders may forgo planting a cover crop this year. In allowing that flexibility, USDA will still require farmers to plant a cover crop in a future year if the contract calls for its implementation.
CRP contracts range from 10 to 15 years in length. Signed into law in 1985 by President Reagan, the program is designed to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and enhance the habitat for endangered and threatened species. This map provides further perspective as to the CRP acreage location.