USDA: No Early Outs Without Penalties For CRP

Program still faces challenges and uncertain future

WASHINGTON – July 29, 2008 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said today there would be no early releases of acres from the popular Conservation Reserve Program to be put into production without repayment.  He cited robust corn and soybean yields and less-than-expected crop damage as the reasons to keep the program’s regulations unchanged.

“This was a very tough decision for Sec. Schafer and USDA,” said Don Young, executive vice president of Ducks Unlimited, concerning the announcement.

“Ducks Unlimited is pleased the USDA will maintain the program and the benefits that it has had,” said Barton James, Ducks Unlimited’s director of agriculture conservation policy. “The Secretary had to weigh many issues and balance competing demands and interests in this decision,” James said.

CRP has been a windfall for wildlife – adding more than 2.2 million ducks to the annual migration, and more than 13.5 million pheasants to the prairies.  “We are grateful to producers who have chosen to enroll in the CRP program. Its benefits for wildlife and society are numerous,” James said.  "We plan to work with the USDA and producers to ensure that CRP remains an attractive option in this new economic environment,” he said.

CRP land is responsible for removing more than 50 million tons of carbon dioxide from the air. The program is also credited with conserving more than 470 million tons of topsoil in the past year alone.

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - Nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres important to waterfowl each year.

Neil Shader