The sign-up deadlines for both the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the special CRP re-enrollment and extension opportunities have been extended by USDA until April 28. The deadline for both opportunities was originally April 14.

“I encourage all eligible farmers and ranchers to take advantage of the Conservation Reserve Program enrollment options available now through April 28,” said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. “Farmers can improve our soil, water, air and wildlife habitat resources by re-enrolling and extending their CRP contracts.”

After the CRP general sign-up ends on April 28, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will evaluate offers based on cost and the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) factors of wildlife, water, soil, air and enduring benefits. Accepted offers will become effective Oct. 1, 2006.

In addition, subject to a compliance review, CRP participants with contracts expiring on Sept. 30, 2007, now have until April 28 to apply for special re-enrollment or extension opportunities offered by FSA. Participants ranking in the EBI’s top one-fifth can re-enroll their land in a new 10-year contract. For lands with restored wetlands, FSA offered the opportunity for a new 15-year contract. FSA offered the second one-fifth group the opportunity for a five-year extension; the third one-fifth a four-year extension; the fourth one-fifth a three-year extension; and the remaining participants a two-year extension.

FSA county offices are now beginning to notify CRP participants with contracts expiring in 2008-2010 of their re-enrollment and extension opportunities. The deadline for participants to respond is June 30, 2006.

CRP participants voluntarily enroll highly erodible and other fragile cropland in CRP through long-term contracts of 10 to 15 years. On the enrolled land, participants plant grasses, trees and other vegetation. In exchange, participants receive annual rental payments and a payment of up to 50 percent of the cost of establishing conservation covers.

For more information on CRP, contact your local FSA office or visit the FSA Web site at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crp.htm.