July 27, 2005

CRAPO EXAMINES DIRECTION OF CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM

Senatorâ??s hearing reviews effectiveness, future of Farm Bill program

Washington, DC â?? Citing an immediate concern with the scheduled expiration of millions of acres under Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contract between 2007 and 2010, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry, Conservation, and Rural Revitalization, held a hearing today to discuss the long-term direction of CRP, including how to deal with expiring contracts and reenrollments and the effect of the CRP on rural economies.The Conservation Reserve Program is the United Statesâ?? largest conservation program both in acres enrolled and dollars spent. Enrolling in CRP is voluntary and offers payments to landowners and farmers for taking highly erodible and environmentally sensitive land out of production for 10 to 15 years. Some witnesses who testified at todayâ??s hearing praised the program for providing habitat for species as well as support for landowners. Others raised concerns that retiring land in rural, largely agricultural communities is negatively impacting local economies by resulting in fewer farmers and farm supply businesses in those areas.CRP has been credited as a major tool for the restoration of threatened and endangered species across the U.S., including salmon and the sharp tailed grouse in Idaho. During, the hearing, Crapo expressed the importance of developing tools to quantify the benefits of conservation programs.â??I have often said the Farm Bill contains some of our most important environmental programs,â?? said Crapo. â??The CRP program, like other conservation programs, has helped producers protect wetlands, water quality and wildlife habitat, while meeting environmental standards. It is important to periodically review these programs to ensure that they are meeting the goals that they are intending to and benefiting farm communities.â??The U.S. Department of Agriculture has received more than 5,000 comments regarding how to address the number of CRP contracts expiring and other CRP related issues. The departmentâ??s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is currently analyzing all public comments and expects to announce policy and procedures regarding CRP re-enrollment later this year. Last week, the FSA announced it would extend some contracts for one year.