USDA will hold a signup period beginning later this month for the Conservation Reserve Program. Contracts covering 3.3 million acres expire this fall and USDA will be trying to enroll or reenroll land to offset at least some of that land. At least for now the cap on the CRP is 32 million acres, but Congress will probably lower the cap to around 25 million acres if or when a new farm bill is passed. Current enrollment is 27 million acres.

Contracts covering about 6.5 million acres expired in 2012 and USDA was able to enroll/reenroll 4 million acres in last spring’s signup. With high crop prices, enticing farmers to enroll land in the CRP has become more difficult. This was especially true in the northern Plains states last year with CRP acreage falling by about 440,000 acres in Montana and 650,000 in North Dakota. CRP acreage also declined significantly in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Missouri.

This year states with large expiring CRP contracts include Montana (368,000 acres), Texas (363,000 acres), North Dakota (260,000 acres), Colorado (220,000 acres) and Kansas (214,000 acres). Parts of Texas, Colorado and Kansas remain in severe to exceptional drought, which may encourage farmers to try to reenroll CRP acres.

In general, CRP rental rates are below those that landowners can get for raising crops. The national average CRP rental rate is currently just over $60 per acre but average rental rates in Colorado and Texas are below $40 per acre and the average is $41 per acre in Kansas. With wheat prices above $7 per bushel in all states in April, the incentives are strong to return the land to production. The CRP signup runs through June 14 so information about how the number of acres in the program will change won’t be available until mid-summer or later.  

CRP Acreage

(thousand acres)

                           ACRES  THAT EXPIRE

       CURRENT ACREAGE

Montana

368.2

2,005.2

Texas

363.1

3,268.5

North Dakota

260.4

1,797.7

Washington

254.1

1,461.8

Colorado

220.7

2,079.8

Kansas

213.6

2,370.6

Illinois

187.4

996.1

Iowa

186.3

1,535.6

Missouri

184.8

1,134.1

Minnesota

130.4

1,397.1

South Dakota

107.3

978.3

Nebraska

98.6

895.3

Oklahoma

75.7

791.1

Others

684.4

6,306.7

Total

3,335.3

27,017.9