From the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
-- Some landowners whose Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts expire in September can now extend their contracts, keeping the land in grassland or woodland.
"That's very good news for Ohio's landowners, wildlife and water quality," said Luke Miller, a wildlife program administrator with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife "Without this opportunity, just over 17,000 acres of mostly grassland would likely be converted into cropland this fall."
"That would have a significant impact on Ohio's grassland bird species- from the bobolink and meadowlark, to pheasant and quail," Miller said. "But just as important, CRP grassland and forests sequester significant nitrogen and hold soil in place on erosive ground, protecting waterways from sediment, agricultural chemicals and excess nutrients."
Extensions will be offered only to landowners whose contracts have the highest environmental benefits for soil erosion. Generally landowners who planted good wildlife mixes on highly erosive land will qualify for an option to extend the contract. Extended contracts will be at the same rental rate they are currently receiving.
Most contracts will be extended for three or five years. Landowners can choose to extend the entire acreage under contract or a portion of it. However, they cannot enroll additional acres and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not hold a general CRP signup this year.
Landowners with general CRP contracts that expire Sept. 30, 2009, who are eligible for a contract extension, should receive a letter in May from the USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA). These landowners should visit their local FSA office between May 18 and June 30 to apply for an extension.
Landowners who do not receive an offer to extend their contracts can enroll at least part of the field in the continuous CRP with updated rental rates. Visit the local USDA office to sign up or call the local wildlife district office for the name of a private lands biologist who can help with applications and plant material choices. Stream buffers and filter strips are examples of eligible practices and sign-up can be completed at any time.
The grass, trees and shrubs that are planted under a CRP contract provide long-term protection to soil and water while adding wildlife habitat to the landscape. In return for the societal benefits, landowners receive annual rental payments, which help offset the cost of not raising a crop on those acres.