By JOHN O'CONNELL
BOISE, Idaho -- The federal government expects a recently announced general signup of the Conservation Reserve Program from May 20 through June 14 will be highly competitive, Idaho Farm Service Agency Director Dick Rush said.
Nationwide, 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP. The program is capped at 32 million acres. The signup will also cover acreage included in contracts that are expiring on Sept. 30.
"We expect nationally demand to enroll land in CRP will probably be greater than what FSA can accept," Rush said.
CRP contracts typically span 10 years and offer payments for growers to manage land for environmental and wildlife benefits rather than planting crops. Growers' contract offers are chosen based on scores derived from plans they offer to make enduring environmental improvements and benefit wildlife habitat, water quality, erosion control, farm soil health and air quality.
For example, growers can receive 50 points for planting pine trees or at least three native grasses and one shrub species best suited for wildlife, Rush said.
He said Idaho competes well because "we have a lot of highly erodible land and wildlife issues out here."
Rush said some producers have already begun coming into his office with questions about what will be the 45th general CRP signup. New contracts will begin Oct. 1.
Idaho has 622,570 acres enrolled in CRP, with 68,332 acres set to expire. Bonneville County, in eastern Idaho, has the largest acreage in the state set to expire, at 20,000 acres. Idaho has 2,722 farms enrolled in CRP, receiving more than $31.725 million in annual rental payments at an average of about $51 per acre.
In Washington, where 1,453,481 acres are enrolled in CRP, more than 253,600 acres are set to expire. The state has 5,305 farms receiving more than $83.631 million in annual rental payments, averaging more than $57 per acre.
Oregon has 543,540 acres in CRP, with more than 56,200 set to expire. Oregon has 2,313 farms enrolled in CRP, receiving $31.289 million in annual rental payments at an average of more than $57 per acre.
Rush said four Idaho counties -- Bannock, Power, Oneida and Franklin -- are close to a cap allowing no more than 25 percent of a county's total farm acreage to be enrolled in general CRP. The state had a waiver so that continuous enrollment CRP programs wouldn't count against the cap, but it expired with the end of the last farm bill. Rush anticipates the state will request the waiver again for the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement continuous CRP program.
Enrollment in continuous CRP programs has been frozen since the expiration of the farm bill last fall. Rush said the federal government hasn't announced if it will offer another signup period for SAFE and other continuous CRP programs.
"My guess is we'll probably have one," Rush said.