Beginning Jan. 9, 2017, USDA will offer an early termination for certain Conservation Reserve Program contracts to make it easier to transfer property to the next generation of farmers and ranchers, including family members.
The land that is eligible for the early termination is among the least environmentally sensitive land enrolled in CRP.
“The average age of principal farm operators is 58,” said Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Lanon Baccam. “So, land tenure, succession and estate planning, and access to land is an increasingly important issue for the future of agriculture and a priority for USDA. Access to land remains the biggest barrier for beginning farmers and ranchers. This announcement is part of our efforts to address some of the challenges with transitioning land to beginning farmers.”
Normally if a landowner terminates a CRP contract early, they are required to repay all previous payments plus interest. The new policy waives this repayment if the land is transferred to a beginning farmer or rancher through a sale or lease with an option to buy. With CRP enrollment close to the Congressionally mandated cap of 24 million acres, the early termination will also allow USDA to enroll other land with higher conservation value elsewhere.
“Starting the next generation of farmers and ranchers out with conservation and stewardship in mind is another important part of this announcement,” Baccam said. “The land coming out of CRP will have priority enrollment opportunities with USDA’s working lands conservation programs through cooperation between the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.”
Acres terminated early from CRP under these land tenure provisions will be eligible for priority enrollment consideration into the CRP Grasslands, if eligible; or the Conservation Stewardship Program or Environmental Quality Incentives Program, as determined by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
This change to the CRP program is based on recommendations from the Land Tenure Advisory Subcommittee formed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2015. The subcommittee was asked to identify ways the department could use or modify its programs, regulations and practices to address the challenges of beginning farmers and ranchers in their access to land, capital and technical assistance.
According to the Tenure, Ownership and Transition of Agricultural Land survey conducted by USDA in 2014, U.S. farmland owners expect to transfer 93 million acres to new ownership during 2015-2019. This represents 10 percent of all farmland across the nation.
Details on the early termination opportunity will be available starting on Jan. 9 at local USDA service centers.