Over 40 food and agriculture organizations have voiced support for a letter sent Friday to new Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, urging him to review a USDA policy on the Conservation Reserve Program. The industry groups say that the policy, set in Sept. 2007, prevents farmers from planting adequate amounts of some crops, such as corn, that are in high demand.
The letter decries the agency's policy to penalize farmers who seek early release from the contracts they signed with the government under the federal policy. The CRP provides assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers who agree to convert environmentally sensitive acreage, including some croplands, to vegetative cover in order to reduce erosion and otherwise improve the environment.
Among the groups backing the initiative are the National Pork Producers Council, American Meat Institute, Commodity Markets Council, National Chicken Council and the National Turkey Federation.
The agricultural groups would like to see some of those acres freed up so that farmers can plant more of the crops that are in high demand. As an example, they point out that some analytical firms predict a decrease in planted corn acreage this spring.
"We believe that by removing the penalties for early opt-out of CRP contracts, USDA will provide the flexibility necessary for the market to respond and meet these growing commodity needs," the letter states.