USDA HAS announced that Conservation Reserve Program contracts expiring this year may be extended for another year. Participants with contracts expiring Sept. 30, 2002, have until May 31 to apply for the one-year extension.

“The expiration affects 1.8 million rural acres now protected by the CRP,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “This action will help insure the continued safeguarding of this sensitive land as a new farm bill is developed.”

Local offices of USDA's Farm Service Agency are currently notifying eligible CRP participants of the option to modify and extend CRP contracts. The deadline to apply for an extension is May 31, the secretary said. Some 30,000 contracts will expire in September.

The extension will not change participants' rental rates. All or a portion of the acreage under contract may be included in an extension, but no new acreage may be added. Obligations and responsibilities under the original contract continue to apply to contracts that are modified and extended.

USDA is not planning to offer a general CRP signup in fiscal year 2002, which ends Sept. 30. However, producers may continue to enroll relatively small, highly desirable acreage, such as filter strips and riparian buffers, in the continuous CRP at any time at their local FSA office.