Interest renewed in farmer’s CRP

Published 5:01 am Monday, April 11, 2011

The Mower County Farm Service Agency wants farmers to know the Conservation Reserve Program isn’t dead.

The federal program pays farmers to set aside farmland for grassland on 10 to 15 year contracts. Michelle Janssen, CRP program technician, said general CRP signup may not be competitive locally, but farmers in Mower County can still get anywhere from $162 to $251 annually per acre of CRP.

Janssen said FSA stresses areas such as filter strips, waterways and wetland restorations in efforts to keep rivers clean. About a month ago, CRP rates rose for those environmentally sensitive areas.

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“So it makes it a nice incentive for putting crop land into CRP if it’s eligible to protect the sensitive areas,” Janssen said.

Landowners must plant their own native grasses, but Janssen said some areas qualify for up to a 90 percent cost share.

Although CRP isn’t always competitive with grain prices, Roger Peterson sees the other end of it.

“I generally think it’s important because so much of our water runs off of our fields and into the creeks and streams,” he said.

Peterson owns land north of Austin and enrolls roughly 120 acres in CRP. He knows much of the prime farmland lies adjacent to waterways, but for him and others, it’s a personal choice.

“I feel strongly if everybody did that — where they’re farming next to the river, if they had grass strips — it would go a long way to cleaning up the rivers, even all the way to the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.

Peterson said the contracts lose their appeal toward the end of the program because grain prices and inflation usually outweigh CRP payouts. But instead of putting land into permanent easements (which farmers can still do), a farmer can renew his or her contract after 10 years for a better rate.

“It’s a bit of a compromise, just like farming is,” Peterson said.

But Janssen doesn’t think CRP has completely lost its appeal, either.

“My opinion for Mower County, we’re going to hold steady,” she said.

Mower County has about 1,100 contracts in CRP covering roughly 6,500 acres.

But perhaps the greatest benefit is peace of mind. Peterson said his land has drawn flowers, deer, turkeys, pheasants, insects and several species of song birds. He wouldn’t trade the enjoyment he gets from his land either. Someday, he plans to build a house overlooking his increasing scenery.

Anyone looking to enroll in the CRP program can contact the Mower County FSA.