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USDA seeks public comment, schedules 9 meetings on CRP

From the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks

-- The federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), often considered the most successful conservation program in modern times, is at a critical juncture as Congress contemplates whether to continue the program.

Since 2005, more than 4.2 million acres have expired, and over the next five years, another 21 million more acres are slated to expire. That makes participating in the public comment period and public meetings about CRP in September and October the most significant action supporters of the program can take.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) has asked the public for comments on the Conservation Reserve Program and scheduled nine public meetings from Sept. 15 through Oct. 8 to solicit comments on the program. One of these meetings will take place Sept. 23 in Manhattan, Kan.

Public meetings will be held in Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. For meeting dates, times, and locations, go to the Farm Service Agency website, www.fsa.usda.gov. For additional information, phone Dave Nomsen at (320)491-9163 or send an e-mail to
DNomsen@pheasantsforever.org.

Conservation organizations such as Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF) ask CRP supporters to express support for three action items at meetings or during the comment period.

The first item is an immediate need for a new CRP general signup period. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no plans for a new CRP general signup to re-enroll or replace expiring acres.

Second is a goal of one million acres enrolled in the State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program, which allows states to cater CRP to specifically address key wildlife and habitat needs within a state. Currently, there are more than 200,000 acres enrolled in SAFE nationally, and the USDA has established a goal of 500,000 acres for the program. But demand for SAFE acres in states such as South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska has been so strong that they are at, or near, their initial SAFE acreage limits.

The third item stressed by PF/QF is to double the Bobwhite Quail Buffers Program Conservation Practice 33, or "Bobwhite Buffers," which establishes edge habitat along fields, streams, and woods that bobwhite quail need. Currently, there are more than 200,000 acres enrolled nationally, and USDA has established a goal of 250,000 acres for the program.

Public comments on CRP are due by Oct. 19. Email comments to
CRPcomments@tecinc.com; submit comments online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov; mail comments to CRP SEIS, c/o TEC Inc., 8 San Jose Dr., Suite 3-B, Newport News, VA 23606; or fax comments to (757) 594-1469.

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