The payments, which USDA began mailing earlier this week, are aimed at helping producers and landowners protect lands that meet certain environmental criteria and might be better left out of crop production.

“This is one of several conservation programs that provides incentives for farmers and ranchers to strengthen environmental stewardship of their lands,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. “This program gives producers additional resources to reduce topsoil erosion, increase wildlife habitat and improve air and water quality on these lands.”

Under the CRP, which was re-authorized in the 2002 farm bill, producers voluntarily retire environmentally sensitive cropland for 10 to 15 years. In return, USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) makes annual rental payments to producers and shares the cost of establishing approved conservation practices.

Land to be enrolled must either be highly erodible, contribute to a serious water quality problem, provide important wildlife habitat, or provide substantial environmental benefits if devoted to certain specific conservation uses.

This week’s payments will average $4,455 per farm and $46.68 per acre on 590,000 contracts and 355,000 farms.

Other CRP payments, including reimbursement of 50-percent of vegetative-cover establishment expenses and incentive payments for enrolling eligible conservation practices, are made throughout the year. In FY 2002, these payments are anticipated to amount to $145 million for cover cost reimbursements and $115 million for incentive payments.

For a state-by-state table listing the number of acres enrolled, the amount of CRP rental payments, and number of contracts and farms follows, see the USDA Web site http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2002/10/0416.htm. This includes CRP acreage as of September 2002 and October 2002 rental payments.

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