AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made contract adjustments which will make it easier to transfer land to younger generation farmers.
On Jan. 9, the USDA started allowing current farmers and ranchers to terminate their "Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)" contracts early, and there are hopes this will make it easier for those producers to transfer property to the next generation.
"Before this provision came out, our CRP participants would be required to pay back all payments that they've earned under the contract plus interest," said Farm Service Agency County Executive Director, Adam Acker. "With this new provision, if they are able to terminate this contract, they won't have to have any penalty if the land is transferred directly to beginning farmers or ranchers."
The Conservation Reserve Program is an effort to get farmers to take out highly erodible land from agricultural production which in return boosts soil and air quality along with enhancing wildlife habitats.
But these contracts can be binding, as they can be as long as 15 years.
Now, producers can cancel a contract as long as they are handing down the land to a first time producer.
"Our beginning farmers and ranchers are having a hard time finding land that they can use and actually get into the operation," Acker said. "So, the USDA is using this as an opportunity for some of our current CRP participants to maybe pass on this land to those beginning farmers or historically under-served producers to get them started."
Currently, Texas has 14,000 farms and about 2.9 million acres enrolled in CRP.
The USDA expects farmland owners to transfer about 93 million acres to new ownership between 2015 and 2019.
Acker also said adjusting contracts and encouraging new generation producers to move to rural areas can help the Texas economy and keep produce more affordable.
For more details about the early termination opportunity and other USDA conservation programs available to producers visit the USDA's website.