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Options for Expiring CRP Contracts

Options for Expiring CRP Options for Landowners with Expiring CRP Contracts

Landowners With Expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Contracts Face A Variety Of Alternatives For Managing The Land In An Environmentally Friendly Way.

If you choose not to re-enroll in CRP, or your bid to re-enroll is not accepted, your options will vary from returning the land to crop production, grazing, managing it for wildlife, or a combination of uses. 

This webpage reviews some of your options and considerations. Keep in mind that these options are not all-inclusive and focus on most-likely, non-re enrollment alternatives, and that you may choose to separate the acreage and adopt more than one alternative.

Your choice will depend on your circumstances, expectations and goals. It’s important to consider several factors, including soil productivity and limitations, management and past yields, commodity prices, conversion and renovation costs and other required investments.

Whatever you decide, resources are available to help you achieve your objectives. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), your local conservation district, and extension office can provide science-based advice and recommendations.

Evaluating Your Post-CRP Options

Converting to Cropland

The first step is to decide whether or not land will be farmed again. This is a good opportunity to leave areas like steep slopes, shallow soil or low producing areas, and critical waterways in protective cover. You may also want to consider other conservation options for reducing soil erosion and protecting clean water. You can explore creative conservation practices using some of the grasses that are already established through your CRP contract to support or replace more traditional practices.

Keep in mind that converting from CRP grass cover back to cropland involves important decisions about pre-tillage management—decisions such as how to properly prepare the seedbeds, manage for weeds, and apply the appropriate soil nutrients. As you make the initial transition, these factors will likely be significantly different from normal crop rotation needs.

You also need to think about the economic impacts. It’s very likely that cropland cost factors have changed while your land was in the CRP contract. Research and evaluate the costs of production, crop prices, lease arrangements, and any potential government program benefits and requirements. You may also need to evaluate your machinery to ensure it meets your current needs.  Since CRP land typically does not have a recent history of pesticide or herbicide application, the land may be valuable for organic production.

Grazing

Grazing is another alternative use on many CRP acres. But to get the best use of the forage available to you, be sure to start your planning and management well before your contract expires.

For example, determining your grass species and climatic zone can help you calculate how much forage will be available. Areas left in grass for erosion control, or because they are not practical to farm, can usually be safely grazed with proper management. If you increase livestock numbers to use forage from CRP land, you may need to add additional hay and summer pasture at other times of the year. You may also need to install fences or livestock watering facilities.

It’s also important to evaluate the economic factors, such as costs to build or upgrade facilities, livestock costs and potential returns, tax and property values, and pasture rents. Often times landowners choose a combination of cropland and grazing on their expired CRP acres.

Managing for Wildlife

The benefits of CRP go beyond the contract holder and their land. The CRP land in perennial grass provides food and cover for a variety of wildlife species, often in areas where it was limited before CRP. You can further enhance these wildlife values by installing water developments and planting shrubs, trees, or food crop plots. Some wildlife habitat can be maintained in farmed areas by leaving borders in grass and by leaving riparian buffer zones for cover and to trap sediments. Windbreaks can provide food, cover and erosion protection.

Reduce Erosion

You can dramatically reduce soil erosion and water run-off when you keep the land in a perennial grass cover. You may want to consider keeping parts of your CRP acres in grassland for erosion control. This will keep sediment from running off into roads, rivers and streams. It will also keep more water in your soil to support plant growth and to feed springs and streams—instead of losing it to run-off.

Other Options

It is allowable for CRP land to transition into conservation easements to provide longer term benefits.  NRCS’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) Wetland Reserve Easement Program (WRE) allows expiring CRP acreage to be enrolled as a wetland easement. The land being offered for enrollment must meet all other WRE eligibility criteria, and must have the capacity to restore hydric soils, wetland functions and values, and wetland wildlife habitat. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/pa/programs/easements/acep/ State or private easement programs may also be an option. 

Additional Information

For more information, contact FSA and NRCS at your local service center, or visit the Pennsylvania Farm Services Agency website to explore your options.


Program Contacts

Noel Soto
Program Manager
717-237-2173