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ENVIRO-NEWS  January 1998

ENVIRO-NEWS January 1998

Subject:

Q&A on Conservation Reserve Program 16th Sign-Up

From:

Joseph Makuch <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 30 Jan 1998 08:43:59 -0500 (EST)

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (341 lines)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 1998 08:31:07 -0800
Forwarded from http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/1998/01/0044

>                                               Release No. 0044.98
> 
> Questions & Answers
> 
> 1) Q: When will producers be notified whether their offers are acceptable?
> 
> A: Using overnight mail, the Farm Service Agency's (FSA) Kansas City
> Management Office sent by January 28, 1998, lists of acceptable and rejected
> offers to all State and County FSA offices.  After receipt, County FSA
> offices will immediately start notifying producers.
> 
> 2) Q: What is the regional distribution of the acreage in the new CRP
> compared to the old CRP?
> 
>                             CRP Enrollment
>                                              Aggregate Through
> A:  Region     Old CRP    15th Sign-UP    16th Sign-Up Sign-Up 16
> 
> Northeast        1%             1%              1%                1%
> Appalachian      3%             2%              2%                2%
> Southeast        5%             3%              2%                3%
> Delta            3%             4%              2%                4%
> Corn Belt       15%            10%             12%               13%
> Lake States      8%             4%             11%                7%
> N. Plains       27%            30%             21%               28%
> S. Plains       15%            16%             18%               15%
> Mountain        18%            27%             21%               23%
> Pacific          5%             4%              9%                5%
> 
> Note: Numbers may not add to 100% due to rounding.
> 
> 3) Q: How much acreage subject to expiring CRP contracts will be re-enrolled
> in this sign up?
> 
> A: Approximately 1.9 million acres that are currently subject to contracts
> expiring September 30, 1998, will be re-enrolled in the new CRP. 2.0 million
> acres will be enrolled in the CRP for the first time, and 2.0 million acres
> were previously enrolled in contracts that expired last year.
> 
> 4) Q: When will the new contracts become effective?
> 
> A: For contracts covering land which expired September 30, 1997, and acreage
> subject to Water Bank Program contracts which expired December 31, 1997, CRP
> applicants can choose to have contracts become effective either October 1,
> 1998, or the first of the month after the month the contract is approved.
> All other contracts will become effective October 1, 1998.
> 
> 5) Q: Can a 1998 crop be harvested even when normal harvest occurs after 
   the October 1, 1998, contract effective date?
> 
> A: For contracts effective October 1, 1998, CRP participants may harvest
> this year's crops (provided the acreage is not already under CRP contract)
> even when normal harvest occurs after October 1 of the effective date of the
> new contract.  The first year's payment is not affected by the harvest date.
> 
> 6) Q: What will be the duration of CRP contracts?
> 
> A:  CRP contracts will be for a term of not less than 10 years.  However,
> for land devoted to certain practices such as restoration of cropped
> wetlands, hardwood trees, wildlife corridors, or restoration of rare and
> declining habitat, contracts may be for 15 years, as selected by the
> participant.
> 
> 7) Q: How were the offers selected?
> 
> A: USDA used a competitive environmental benefits index (EBI) based on seven
> factors.  The EBI factors were: (1) wildlife habitat cover benefits which
> encourage covers on contract acreage that will be most beneficial to
> wildlife; (2) water quality benefits from reduced erosion, runoff, and
> leaching; (3) on-farm benefits of reduced erosion; (4) enduring benefits;
> (5) air quality benefits from reduced wind erosion; (6) benefits of
> enrollment in conservation priority areas where enrollment would contribute
> to the improvement of water quality, wildlife habitat, or air quality; and
> (7) cost.
> 
> 8) Q: Why did the EBI cutoff score drop from 259 for Sign-Up 15 to 247 for
> Sign-Up 16?
> 
> A:  For the environmental factors discussed in Question 7, there were
> adjustments primarily to the air quality factor.  The maximum point score
> for  air quality increased from 25 points to 35 points.  Other minor changes
> were  made to the wildlife cover and enduring benefits factors. Under Sign-Up 16, applicants offered to significantly increase the wildlife 
habitat
> cover by agreeing to plant a mix of native plant species suited for the
> site.  Additionally, applicants offered covers which provide enduring
> benefits such as trees, shrubs, and rare and declining habitat restoration.
> These types of plantings will provide benefits after the contracts expire.
> The score on the six raw environmental factors was 187 for Sign-Up 16
> compared to 156 for Sign-Up 15.
> 
> The last component of the EBI is the cost factor.  The cost component is
> based on 3 subfactors.  The first subfactor is based on the rental rate
> offered by the producer; the second is whether any Federal cost-share
> assistance will be provided; and the third awards points for offers
> submitted below the maximum rental rate.  For Sign-Up 16, over 52 percent of
> the producers submitted offers below the maximum rental rate.
> 
> For the sixteenth sign up, the total points awarded for the cost factor is
> 150 points compared to 200 points for Sign-Up 15.  The total points for all
> EBI factors under Sign-Up 15 were 600 points and for Sign-Up 16 was 560
> points.  Given the overall lower number of available EBI points the 247-point cutoff for Sign-Up 16 has a higher relative value than the 
259-point
> cutoff for Sign- Up 15.  The 247-point cutoff would roughly equal 273 points
> under the point scheme used for Sign-Up 15.
> 
> 9) Q: What did applicants do to achieve the increased points under the EBI?
> 
> A: Over 80 percent of applicants significantly enhanced their wildlife cover
> scores by agreeing to plant mixes of grasses and shrubs that are better
> suited for wildlife. Applicants also offered to establish more enduring
> practices such as tree planting, wetland restoration, and rare and declining
> habitat restoration.  Additionally, for Sign-Up 16, applicants were awarded
> additional points for offers less than the maximum available rental rate and
> over 52 percent of the producers submitted offers below the maximum rental
> rate.  Also, many producers submitted offers on only the most
> environmentally sensitive acreage while returning the more productive ground
> to crop production.
> 
> 10) Q: Into Sign-Up 16, what were the major changes that occurred?
> 
> A: The provisions of Sign-Up 16 were announced a month before the sign-up
> started with an aggressive outreach program emphasizing the importance of
> enhancing wildlife cover, submitting competitively priced offers, and only
> offering the most environmentally sensitive land.  As a consequence, many
> applicants significantly enhanced their environmental benefits score for
> Sign-Up 16.  The average EBI score for the six environmental factors
> increased from 156 points (Sign-Up 15) to 187 points.
> 
> 11) Q:  What were the impacts of using the EBI?
> 
> A: The EBI fostered competition, enhanced cover for wildlife, encouraged
> enduring habitat restoration protection, and provided a quantitative basis
> for selection of the most environmentally sensitive acres.
> 
> 12) Q: Did the rental rate increase?
> 
> A: Yes, from $39.39 per acre for Sign-Up 15 to $45.15 per acre for Sign-Up
> 16, which is still well below the historic average of $49.67 per acre.  For
> acreage accepted under the 16th Sign-Up, the savings associated with these
> lower average rental rates equates to $261 million during the life of the
> CRP contracts.  The greater relative weight placed on the environmental
> factors contributed to the increased rental rate.
> 
> 13) Q: Why did you decide to use a lower weight for cost?
> 
> A: By reducing the weight for cost, we achieved significantly higher raw
> environmental benefits (See Question 10).  A thorough review of the economic
> and environmental impacts of changing the cost factor was made.  It
> continues to be the policy of the Department to direct the CRP to the
> highest environmental priority lands.  The lands coming in using an EBI cost
> component of 150 points that would not have come in using a cost component
> of 200 have higher erosion rates, more water quality benefits, and more
> wildlife enhancement.  For these lands, the average EBI was 40 points
> greater and the average Erosion Index was 5 points higher.  While this
> significant increase in environmental benefits comes at a slightly higher
> average program cost of $1.50 per acre, CRP program costs continue to be
> nearly $5.00 per acre below the historic program costs.
> 
> 14) Q: What are the regional impacts of using a lower weight for cost?
> 
> A: The change in the cost factor from 200 to 150 points increases the
> enrollment in the Corn Belt by about 100,000 acres while only slightly
> reducing acreage in other areas.  This enrollment pattern is consistent with
> the general regional distribution similar to Sign-Up 15 and the historic
> level of the program.
> 15) Q: May land that was the subject of an offer and rejected for enrollment
> be re-offered during a later sign up?
> 
> A: Yes.  Land that meets basic eligibility criteria may be offered during
> any CRP sign up even if it was previously offered but not accepted.  The
> likelihood of acceptance could be increased by offering less than the
> maximum payment rate for the acreage, agreeing to establish more beneficial
> cover, or limiting the offer to only the more environmentally sensitive
> acreage of a particular parcel of land.
> 
> 16) Q: If not accepted under a new offer, must land coming out of CRP be
> farmed according to a conservation plan for the producer to maintain
> eligibility for benefits under certain USDA programs?
> 
> A: Yes.  If the acreage meets the applicable highly erodible land
> definition, a conservation plan will be required to retain eligibility for
> certain other USDA programs. For land returning to production, grazing, or
> other uses, the Natural Resources Conservation Service will develop
> conservation plans to help ensure that environmental gains achieved under
> CRP are maintained.
> 
> 17) Q: If an offer is not acceptable, when can a producer begin preparing
> the CRP land for crop production?
> 
> A: Beginning July 1 in the final year of the contract, CRP participants may
> begin certain land preparation activities for fall-seeded crops.  For 1998,
> in arid areas, land preparation approved for fall-seeded crops on certain
> CRP acreage may begin as early as May 1 if producers agree to a reduction in
> their rental payment.  Participants may prepare land for spring-seeded crops
> only with chemical burn down of cover during the summer.  Beginning dates
> for this activity vary by region.  All early land preparation activities
> must be applied under an approved conservation plan and be approved in
> advance from the local FSA office.  Interested participants should contact
> their local FSA office for details regarding early land preparation policies
> to ensure that they do not violate the terms and conditions of their CRP
> contract.
> 
> 18) Q: When will the next general CRP sign up be held?
> 
> A: It is likely that the next general sign up will be held this fall.  A
> future announcement will provide specific dates and provisions.
> 
> 19) Q: How many offers were made?
> 
> A: There were 126,232 offers.
> 
> 20) Q: How many acres were offered for enrollment in the 16th Sign-Up?
> 
> A: 9,504,835 acres were offered.
> 
> 21) Q: Compared to the historical CRP, the average Erodibility Index (EI)
> has declined.  Why?
> 
> A: The additional emphasis of the new CRP on achieving significant wildlife
> and water quality benefits, when combined with the efforts to reduce soil
> erosion, make average EI values of accepted acres misleading indicators of
> program performance and the environmental quality of the enrolled acreage.
> While the average EI for all accepted Sign-Up 15 and Sign-Up 16 acres is
> about 8 points lower than the estimated average for the original CRP
> acreage, the average EI is 24 for those Sign-Up 15 and Sign-Up 16 lands
> accepted primarily on the basis of erodibility.  This value is slightly
> higher than the estimated EI of 23 for the original CRP acreage when
> selection was based almost solely on soil erosion and erodibility.  Even
> with the emphasis on other environmental factors, the vast majority (about
> 80 percent) of lands enrolled during Sign-Up 15 and Sign-Up 16 are highly
> erodible lands subject to HEL conservation compliance requirements.
> 
> 22) Q: When can a CRP participant begin to establish the approved cover?
> 
> A: Approved applicants must contact the Natural Resources Conservation
> Service for approval of their conservation plans.  CRP applicants with
> accepted offers may begin establishing the cover immediately.  Producers who
> establish the cover before the CRP contract is approved do so at their own
> risk.
> 
> 23) Q: When will producers and operators receive their first payments from
> land accepted into the 15th sign up of the CRP?
> 
> A: For contracts becoming effective before October 1, 1998, the first
> payment will be issued on or shortly after October 2, 1998.  Participants
> with contracts becoming effective on October 1, 1998, will receive their
> first payment on or shortly after October 2, 1999.
> 
> 24) Q: What is the distribution of the offered acres as it relates to
> contracts expired September 30, 1997, contracts expiring September 30, 1998,
> and acreage not previously under contract?
> 
> A: For the sixteenth sign up, about one-third of the acres offered were
> under contracts that expired September 30, 1997 (3,174,753 acres), about
> one-third of the acres were offers for land under contract that expire on
> September 30, 1998 (3,131,075 acres), and about one-third of the acres were
> not previously subject to a CRP contract (3,199,007 acres).
> 
> 25) Q: Can you explain why some States such as North Dakota and South Dakota
> have such relatively low enrollment rates?
> 
> A: In general, the acres offered in the Dakotas for Sign-Up 16 had
> significantly less inherent soil erosion than the average for the rest of
> the country.  Inherent soil erosion is measured using an Erodibility Index.
> The higher the number, the greater the potential to erode.  The average
> erodibility index for the Nation on land offered into the CRP was 11, while
> the average rates in South Dakota and North Dakota were, respectively, 5.6
> and 7.6.  Erosion is also an element of the water quality and air quality
> components -- the average water quality scores for South Dakota were 17
> points below the National average.  Another factor that also reduced the bid
> acceptance was the reluctance of applicants to offer acreage below the
> maximum rental rate.  Offers below the rental rate received additional EBI
> points.  Very few producers in the Dakotas offered acreage below the maximum
> rental rate while over 50 percent of the applicants in the rest of the
> country offered acreage below the maximum rental rate.
> 
> 26) Q: Could you provide a comparison of key CRP data for Sign-Up 15, Sign-Up 16 and the historical CRP?
> 
> A:   Key Data            Historical CRP Sign-Up 15          Sign-Up 16
> 
> Number of Offers approved     375,000        160,428        75,284
> Payment Rate/Acre             $50.00         $39.39         $45.15
> Average EI                    23             16             13
> Highly Erodible Land (Acs)    28,000,000     13,532,155     4,340,440
> EI>15 (Acs)                   13,000,000     6,531,798      1,586,902
> Cropped Wetland (Acs)         300,000        197,500        107,722
> Trees                         2,400,000      1,312,000      295,419
> National Priority
> Area (Acs)                    6,600,000      3,507,473      1,432,405
> 
> 
> 27) Q: Will enrollment of the 16th sign-up affect spring plantings?
> 
> A: Only those participants with land previously subject to CRP contracts
> which expired September 30, 1997, or waterbank contracts which expired
> December 31, 1997, will have the option of starting new contracts before
> October 1, 1998.  In addition, producers offering new land for enrollment
> may plant crops this spring and harvest those crops in the fall without
> affecting their CRP payments.  Therefore, the 16th Sign-Up should have very
> little effect on spring planting decisions.
> 
> 28) Q: What will be the total enrollment in CRP on October 1, 1998, when
> 16th Sign-Up contracts become effective?
> 
> A: There will be 29.9 million acres enrolled in the CRP on October 1, 1998.
> As more acres are enrolled through continuous sign up this spring and
> summer, that number may increase.
> 
> 29) Q: Has acreage been reserved for future continuous sign up enrollment?
> 
> A: Yes.  We will reserve at least 5.5 million acres for practices covered by
> the continuous CRP sign-up process, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement
> Program (Federal/State enhancement agreements), the Conservation Farm Option
> program, and other initiatives.  These CRP components are key to the success
> of the USDA Conservation Buffer Initiative.  This figure is based upon USDA
> analysis of the acreage authority needed to ensure successful operation of
> these initiatives in the future.  We will continue to monitor enrollment
> levels and producer interest and adjust this reserve if necessary.
> 
>                               #
> 
> NOTE: USDA news releases and media advisories are available on the Internet.
> Access the USDA Home Page on the World Wide Web at http://www.usda.gov
> 
> Additional CRP information can be obtained from the FSA home page at
> http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crpinfo.htm


http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/1998/01/0044


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