DES MOINES, Iowa – Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Lanon Baccam announced that, starting Jan. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will offer an early termination opportunity for certain Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts, making it easier to transfer property to the next generation of farmers and ranchers, including family members. The land that is eligible for the early termination is among the least environmentally sensitive land enrolled in CRP.

The change is one of many that USDA has implemented based on recommendations from the Land Tenure Advisory Subcommittee formed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2015. The subcommittee was asked to identify ways the department could modify its programs, regulations and practices to address the challenges of beginning farmers and ranchers in their access to land, capital and technical assistance.

“The average age of principal farm operators is 58,” said Baccam. “So, land tenure, succession and estate planning, and access to land is an increasingly important issue for the future of agriculture and a priority for USDA. This announcement is part of our efforts to address some of the challenges with transitioning land to beginning farmers.”

Normally, a landowner who terminates a CRP contract early is required to repay all previous payments plus interest. The new policy waives this repayment if the land is transferred to a beginning farmer or rancher through a sale or lease with an option to buy.

With CRP enrollment close to the congressionally mandated cap of 24 million acres, the early termination will also allow USDA to enroll other land with higher conservation value elsewhere.

“Starting the next generation of farmers and ranchers out with conservation and stewardship in mind is another important part of this announcement,” Baccam said. “The land coming out of CRP will have priority enrollment opportunities with USDA’s working lands conservation programs through cooperation between the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.”

Acres terminated early from CRP under these land tenure provisions will be eligible for priority enrollment consideration into the CRP Grasslands, if eligible; or the Conservation Stewardship Program or Environmental Quality Incentives Program, as determined by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Details on the early termination opportunity will be available starting on Jan. 9, 2017, at local USDA service centers. For more details about CRP and to find out if your acreage is eligible for early contract termination, contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office or go online at www.fsa.usda.gov/crp. To locate your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.