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Farmers and landowners committed to protecting and conserving environmentally sensitive land may sign up for the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) which began June 9. The Secretary also announced that retiring farmers enrolled in CRP could receive incentives to transfer a portion of their land to beginning, disadvantaged or veteran farmers through the Transition Incentives Program (TIP).


CCRP provides incentives to producers who utilize conservation methods on environmentally-sensitive lands. For example, farmers are monetarily compensated for establishing long-term vegetative species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as “covers”) to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat.


Under continuous sign-up authority, eligible land can be enrolled in CRP at any time with contracts of up to 10 to 15 years in duration. In lieu of a general sign-up this year, USDA will allow producers with general CRP contracts expiring this September to have the option of a one-year contract extension. In addition, the new grassland provisions, which will allow producers to graze their enrolled land, will enable producers to do so with more flexibility.


The Transition Incentives Program provides two additional years of payments for retired farmers and landowners who transition expiring CRP acres to socially disadvantaged, military veteran, or beginning producers who return the land to sustainable grazing or crop production. Sign up began June 9. TIP funding was increased by more than 30 percent in the 2014 Farm Bill, providing up to $33 million through 2018.


As part of the 2014 Farm Bill, participants meeting specific qualifications may have the opportunity to terminate their CRP contract during fiscal year 2015 if the contract has been in effect for a minimum of five years and if other conditions are also met.


Mid-Contract CRP Cover Management


The Ohio Farm Service Agency (FSA) along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Pheasants Forever (PF) developed a State Mid-Contract Management (MCM) team. The State MCM team completes site evaluations of each CRP grass practice and determine the appropriate Mid-Contract Management activity options based on the existing cover.


So how will this MCM team evaluation have an effect on CRP participants? Well, all CRP participants with contracts effective beginning with sign-up 26 are required to perform management activities as part of their approved conservation plan. All CRP participants with contracts before sign-up 26 can perform management activities, voluntarily. If participants voluntarily request to revise the conservation plan, the management activities will be the same terms and conditions established for the required management activities.


Required activities shall be designed to ensure plant diversity and wildlife benefits, while ensuring protection of the soil and water resources. Management activities are designed to be site specific and used to enhance the wildlife benefits for the site. Cost-sharing up to 50 percent of a flat rate, is available for most management practices including light disking and interseeding.


Management activities must not be performed during the primary nesting period or brood rearing season, which in Ohio is March 1- July 15. Failure to perform planned management activities can result in contract violation.


The Morrow County FSA office will be contacting you later this summer if your CRP contract is due for MCM this year. Practice cover evaluations of these practices by the MCM team will be conducted this summer.


Contact the Morrow County FSA office for details concerning your CRP mid-contract management activities.


CRP Participants – Think Twice before Mowing


In the past, mowing of CRP grass cover was a widely accepted practice by many participants, if for no other purpose than aesthetics. Today with more research and understanding, it has been shown that undisturbed grass cover will reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and is more beneficial to wildlife than annually mowed grass covers.


Undisturbed CRP covers could appear unattractive to those that do not understand its value. Wildlife, especially grassland birds including pheasants and quail, and pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, view undisturbed CRP cover as a source of food and habitat suitable to raise their young. Wildlife will not be attracted to CRP cover if plants are not allowed to mature. Game birds and bees are disappearing because of habitat loss.


Undisturbed grass cover does not include noxious weeds such as thistle and teasel or woody species like trees and multiflora rose. These noxious weeds must be controlled by spot mowing affected areas or spot spraying of an approved herbicide. These treatments will have a minimal effect on the CRP practice cover’s ability to meet the purposes of erosion control, water quality, and wildlife habitat. Spot mowing is less expensive than mowing the whole practice. Aesthetic beauty should not replace good land stewardship and economics.


Unnecessary disturbance of CRP cover is considered a violation of the terms and conditions of the CRP contract and conservation plan. Violations could potentially result in hefty penalties including contract termination and refund of all contract related payments.


Properly maintained CRP cover can be very attractive if noxious weeds and invasive species are controlled and grasses and wildflowers are allowed to mature. Please scout your CRP fields before weeds go to seed. Contact your local FSA office for permission to spot treat your CRP grass cover during Ohio’s primary nesting season (March 1st – July 15th). Plan to have your CRP cover assessed for the need of mid-contract management activities that are designed to enhance your CRP cover for wildlife. Mid-contract management is a contractual obligation that is outlined in your CRP-1 Appendix and conservation plan.


Contact the FSA office for more information on proper maintenance and management of CRP practice cover.


Are you thinking about selling land that’s enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)?


If you plan to sell farmland that’s enrolled in the CRP, our office would like to remind you about the terms and conditions of your contract.


Under the CRP program, the original contract (CRP-1) will need to be revised to reflect the change in participants and/or shares on the contract. The new CRP participant(s) must sign a revised contract within 60 calendar days from the date of notification by the county committee or county executive director. If a revised contract isn’t signed within the 60 day timeframe, the contract will be terminated with respect to the affected portions of such land and the original CRP participant will be held liable.


If the new landowner elects not to continue the CRP contract, the contract will be terminated. When a contract is terminated, refund of the following payments plus interest is required from the original CRP participant: all annual rental payments, all cost share payments, signup incentive payments, and practice incentive payments. Liquidated damages are also assessed.


Refunds of payments will not be required in cases where the owner’s estate or the heirs do not succeed to the contract. There are other cases that do not require the refund of payments, when a participant loses control of the land, such as eminent domain.


Lastly, contact the Morrow County FSA office if you have any questions regarding the terms and conditions of your CRP contract.


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