High Prices Don’t Discourage Set-Aside Enrolment – for Sep. 23, 2010

Despite a late-summer surge in wheat prices, landowners offered to enroll 1.5 per cent of U. S. cropland in a federal program that pays them an annual rent for taking fragile land out of production.

Some 4.3 million acres (1.7 million hectares) will be accepted of 4.8 million acres offered for the Conservation Reserve, said the U. S. Agriculture Department Sept. 14.

Texas, Colorado and Kansas – all part of the Wheat Belt – are the leading states for acceptances, said USDA. The figures were 858,436 acres for Texas, 739,467 for Colorado and 618,905 acres in Kansas.

“This was a signup when commodity prices were spiking,” said Brandon Willis, deputy administrator of the Farm Service Agency. Wheat prices skyrocketed during August, during the signup for the reserve, due to drought in Russia.

USDA officials said preliminary figures indicated no major shift in cropland in or out of the Plains. The 4.3 million acres of land that will enter the Conservation Reserve will offset expiring contracts on 4.46 million acres.

The Conservation Reserve pays an annual rent to landowners who agree to retire environmentally fragile land for at least 10 years. Some 54 per cent of the 31.3 million acres now in the reserve are in eight Plains states, stretching from Texas to North Dakota.

Willis said 84 per cent of the land offered for the reserve was highly erodible and 57 per cent was land previously enrolled.

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