USDA Announces Programs to Conserve Sensitive Land, Help Beginning Farmers

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that farmers, ranchers and landowners committed to protecting and conserving environmentally sensitive land may now sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The Secretary also announced that retiring farmers enrolled in CRP could receive incentives to transfer a portion of their land to beginning, disadvantaged or veteran farmers through the Transition Incentives Program (TIP).Vilsack continued, “The average age of farmers and ranchers in the United States is 58 years, and twice as many are 65 or older compared to those 45 or younger. The cost of buying land is one of the biggest barriers to many interested in getting started in agriculture. The Transition Incentives Program is very useful as we work to help new farmers and ranchers get started.”

The Conservation Reserve Program provides incentives to producers who utilize conservation methods on environmentally-sensitive lands. For example, farmers are monetarily compensated for establishing long-term vegetative species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as “covers”) to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat.

CRP consists of a “continuous” and “general” sign-up period. Continuous sign up for the voluntary program starts June 9. Under continuous sign-up authority, eligible land can be enrolled in CRP at any time with contracts of up to 10 to 15 years in duration. In lieu of a general sign-up this year, USDA will allow producers with general CRP contracts expiring this September to have the option of a one-year contract extension. USDA will also implement the 2014 Farm Bill’s requirement that producers enrolled through general sign-up for more than five years can exercise the option to opt-out of the program if certain other conditions are met. In addition, the new grassland provisions, which will allow producers to graze their enrolled land, will enable producers to do so with more flexibility.

The Transition Incentives Program provides two additional years of payments for retired farmers and ranchers who transition expiring CRP acres to socially disadvantaged, military veteran, or beginning producers who return the land to sustainable grazing or crop production. Sign up will also begin June 9. TIP funding was increased by more than 30 percent in the 2014 Farm Bill, providing up to $33 million through

Both the CRP and TIP were reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

Cultivating New Farmers and Ranchers- CDFA

Farm demographics continue to change in California. The average age of a farmer is 58 years old, relatively few heirs are willing to take over farms, and fewer people are interested in becoming farmers because of a variety of challenges. This dynamic is made more troublesome by the fact that food demand is expected to double worldwide by the year 2050. As a result, the opportunity and need for California farmers will be significant, and the cultivation of new farmers and ranchers is more important than ever.


Ag Secretary Vilsack’s Comments on 2015 USDA Budget and 2014 Farm Bill In a Nutshell

USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated yesterday that the President’s 2015 USDA budget proposal and the tools provided in the 2014 farm bill:

  • Achieve reform and results for the American taxpayer
  • Foster opportunity and long-term, sustainable economic growth for the men and women living, working and raising families in rural America, where 85 percent of our nation’s persistent poverty counties are located.
  • Equip our farmers and ranchers with the tools they need to survive and thrive
  • Support innovation through strategic, future-focused investments.

Economically, the 2015 budget:

Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack
Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack
  • Supports farmers, ranchers and growers as they achieve net farm income well above the average of the previous decade
  • Assists mid-sized farms and livestock producers who continue to face challenges as a result of prolonged drought.

Implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill should:

  • Restore disaster assistance
  • Invest in programs to help and train beginning, small and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers
  • Invest in programs that will build the skills they need to get back into the workforce.
  • Provide much-needed stability for producers moving forward
  • Support hardworking Americans as they find and keep jobs and transition out of nutrition assistance programs

Last fiscal year, farm and ranch exports reached a record $141 billion and supported nearly one million American jobs. 
To help America’s producers break into new exports markets for farm and ranch products, and building off of President Obama’s recently announced “Made in Rural America” export initiative, USDA will continue funding for trade promotion and market expansion.

Supported by the recently signed 2014 Farm Bill, the budget:

  • US_Department_of_Agriculture circular logoEstablishes Regional Hubs for Risk Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change at seven locations around the country
    • The Southwest Climate Hub is: Rangeland Management Unit/JornadaExperimental Range, Agricultural Research Service, Las Cruces, N.M.
    • The Southwest “Sub-hub” is in Davis, California
  • Makes targeted investments in bio-based product manufacturing, local and regional food systems, and specialty crops and organic production.
  • Adds about 23 million acres of land to USDA conservation efforts Sustains 25 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, ensuring clean air, clean and abundant water and critical wildlife habitat for generations to come.
  • Makes strategic investments that further innovation and encourage creative approaches to solving rural America’s most pressing challenges
  • Increases funding by $325 million for our premier competitive grants program to support the cutting edge research that will help producers adapt and succeed in the face of modern challenges, including a changing climate
  • Provides $25 million each to three public-private innovation institutes that focus on bio-based product manufacturing, pollinator health, and anti-microbial resistance research, respectively.
  • Recognizes fiscal realities; it supports USDA’s ongoing efforts to modernize and update the way we do business.
  • Builds on our efforts through the Blueprint for Stronger Service, which in recent years has saved the American taxpayer a total of $1.2 billion while ensuring that USDA customers receive the best possible service
  • Continues to support our leaner workforce to find ways to implement increasingly complex programs with fewer resources.

The security of our nation’s food and fiber supply depends on what we do today to support a rural America that is increasingly nimble, diverse and responsive to changing consumer tastes.