Conservation group calls for temporary use of CRP lands

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, May 16- Concerned with the impact of recent extreme flooding and drought conditions across the United States, National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) President Gene Schmidt sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) Acting Administrator Bruce Nelson supporting the temporary use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands, as long as a conservation management plan is in use. About 31 million acres are currently enrolled in the CRP.

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 “Recent flooding and drought conditions have had major impacts on grazing lands across large portions of the country,” said Schmidt. “Some producers in hard-hit areas are in desperate need of grazing acreage, and would benefit through the emergency use of CRP lands.”

 FSA rules allow for the temporary and/or emergency use of CRP lands while using a conservation management plan during certain weather events.

 “We support FSA's efforts to allow CRP land-use decisions to be handled at the local level, based on proper management plans and local environmental conditions,” Schmidt continued. 

 Conservation districts across the country work with private landowners to carry out a variety of conservation programs, including CRP. CRP plans are developed through the agreement of local landowners and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical staff. CRP provides a variety of important environmental benefits, including erosion reduction, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration.

 Last week, seventy-two national and state agribusiness, meat, livestock and poultry organizations wrote members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to say that farmers should be allowed to remove land “that can be cropped in an environmentally sensitive way” from the CRP, without penalty.

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