Farm-focused conservation programs are among those experiencing the immediate effects of the 2008 Farm Bill’s expiration and the new continuing resolution. Many conservation programs including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and the Farmland Protection Program (FPP) are continuing but under reduced funding levels outlined in the recently-passed continuing resolution that extended federal spending until March of 2013. For example, funding for EQIP is expected to be reduced by some $350 million, and funding for CSP is restricted to prevent new contract sign-ups, although all existing contracts will continue to be honored.
Funding authority for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) expired on Sept. 30, but existing contracts and agreements under the program will remain in effect and payments will continue as scheduled. Contracts on some 6.5 million acres of CRP land are set to expire in 2012, with an additional 3 million acres coming out of the program in 2013. The gradual drawdown of CRP acreage is consistent with NAWG’s 2012 Farm Bill recommendations, which suggested an overall CRP program size of approximately 25 million acres versus the present program authorization of 32 million acres, though an automatic draw-down would not prioritize re-enrolling expiring acres that are most sensitive or highly-erodible.