U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, yesterday questioned Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on farm bill implementation in a hearing entitled, “Implementing the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.”
During the hearing, Thune told Perdue that Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign-ups are needed this year to ensure enrolled acres can be removed from production in the 2020 crop year so vegetative cover can be established on those acres. Perdue responded by saying that he would push the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “as hard as he could” to do so. Perdue added that USDA is considering accepting CRP contracts after December 1, allowing those contracts to be effective for the 2020 crop year.
Excerpt from Thune’s statement:
“Yesterday, during the House Ag Committee hearing, Chairman Peterson asked you questions about the CRP sign-ups, and you mentioned later this summer and December 1 as possible dates for CRP sign-ups.
“My concern is that as of last October, CRP enrollment was at about 22.5 million acres, about 1.5 million below the acreage cap, with another 1.6 million additional acres expiring September 30 of this year.
“Because acres accepted in CRP usually are not actually enrolled until the following October 1, I’m very concerned that unless general CRP and continuous CRP sign-ups are held no later than summer of this year, we are going to lose the potential to have more than 2 million acres, that if not enrolled in CRP and taken out of production, cropped in 2020 and adding to the existing burdensome grain surplus.”
Following a February 26 letter to Perdue, Thune also reminded him of the urgency in implementing commodity title programs and the need for preliminary worksheets and calculation models so producers and their lenders have more economic certainty as they prepare for the 2019 planting season.