The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) has urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to avoid idling excessive quantities of farmland in individual counties under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

In a statement to USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA), the NGFA urged the agency to alter its CRP interim final rule to remove a provision that would exclude land enrolled under the program's continuous signup provisions when calculating the 25 percent acreage limit that generally applies to total CRP enrollments in individual counties. "Some of the most detrimental impacts of the CRP occur in counties that exceed the 25 percent cap," said the NGFA, noting the damage that excessive idling of productive farmland has on rural development, economic activity and the opportunities provided to young and tenant farmers and ranchers to enter or expand agricultural production.

"Idle land closes the door on economic activity generated by agricultural production. And land idling programs that put the government into direct competition with commercial farmers bidding for land cause more people to lose jobs and encourage a continued population exodus from rural communities."

Under the CRP, landowners enter into 10- to 15-year contracts to plant long-term cover on cropland in exchange for annual rental payments and a payment of up to 50 percent of the cost of establishing conservation practices. USDA recently completed a general sign-up in the CRP, enrolling 4.3 million acres as of Oct. 1 that will bring the CRP about 700,000 acres shy of the 32-million-acre maximum allowed under the 2008 farm law.

Established in 1896, the NGFA is a U.S.-based nonprofit trade association that consists of more than 1,000 grain, feed, processing and grain-related companies comprising more than 6,000 facilities that handle more than 70 percent of U.S. grains and oilseeds. Affiliated with the NGFA are 35 state and regional grain and feed trade associations. The NGFA also has strategic alliances with the North American Export Grain Association and Pet Food Institute.