The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) has joined with seven other national agribusiness associations in commending Alabama Rep. Martha Roby for introducing new legislation that would reform the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

In a letter to Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, House Agriculture Committee Chairman, and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking member, the organizations urged that Roby’s legislation be considered when the House renews its deliberation on a new five-year farm bill.

Read the letter here.

In their joint letter to Lucas and Peterson, the groups said Roby’s legislation, “complements your joint leadership efforts to prudently modify existing law (with respect to the CRP), undertaken as part of the House Agriculture Committee’s language” in its version of the 2012 farm bill.

Last year, the NGFA commended Lucas and Peterson for their efforts to responsibly right-size the CRP while preserving its role in protecting environmentally sensitive land, water quality and wildlife habitat. At that time, the NGFA indicated a strong preference for the House Agriculture Committee-passed CRP language compared to the version contained in the Senate-passed farm bill.  Both bills died once the new Congress took office this month.

“We’re extremely pleased that Congresswoman Roby continues her strong leadership on the importance of right-sizing the CRP in a way that preserves its environmental, water-quality and wildlife benefits, while enabling good-quality farmland to exit the program to help the United States remain competitive in response to strong demand for grains and oilseeds,” said Randy Gordon, NGFA President. “As was the case last year, her productive efforts will be instrumental as Congress streamlines and updates existing conservation programs in a way that enhances protection of working farmlands that are so essential to both U.S. agriculture’s future and its contribution to America’s economic growth and job creation.”

The NGFA and the other organizations noted that Roby’s bill (H.R. 349) would build upon and further improve last year’s House CRP farm bill language by:

  • Reducing the acreage cap in the CRP over a five-year period to 24 million acres, rather than the 25-million-acre ceiling contained in both the House Agriculture Committee- and Senate-passed versions of last year’s farm bill.
  • Removing from CRP eligibility Class I and II lands, which represent the nation’s most productive farmland, thereby focusing the CRP and scarce federal conservation expenditures on more highly erodible and marginal lands.

Roby’s bill would exempt from the CRP-enrollment restriction Class I and II lands that consist of buffer strips, filter strips or portions of land adjacent to grassed waterways that protect water quality.

The NGFA and the other signatories to the letter to Lucas and Peterson also noted that Roby’s bill would mandate that for the 2014 fiscal year the USDA give existing CRP contract holders the freedom to begin restoring to production -- before contract expiration and without penalty -- qualifying CRP acres that have been enrolled for at least five years and that can be farmed in an environmentally sustainable way. In so doing, Roby’s bill mirrors and updates the House Agriculture Committee-passed 2012 farm bill, which contained such a mandate for the 2013 fiscal year only. However, the NGFA and the other organizations, urged that the House Agriculture Committee consider extending the mandatory penalty-free early out language to multiple fiscal years beyond 2014 once it begins consideration of a new farm bill.

The letter called Roby’s bill “extremely timely” given last summer’s drought that “gripped America’s most important crop-production regions.” It also noted that current weather projections indicate the 2013 growing season may experience drier- and warmer-than-normal growing conditions, “with limited opportunity to rebuild extremely tight grain and oilseed stocks.”

In addition to the NGFA, the letter was signed by the following national organizations:

  • American Feed Industry Association.
  • Agricultural Retailers Association.
  • National Chicken Council.
  • National Oilseed Processors Association.
  • National Pork Producers Council.
  • National Turkey Federation.
  • North American Millers’ Association.
  • The Fertilizer Institute.