SIGN ON to Support the Next Generation of Sustainable and Organic Farmers and Ranchers!

From: The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC):

One Week Left to add your organization's name to our sign on letter urging USDA to implement the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Transition Option NOW.  The option will offer incentives to land owners not intending to renew their CRP contracts to sell or lease the land to beginning or minority farmers using sustainable or organic farming practices.  The option has been swept up in a CRP program wide Environmental Impact Review expected to take at least two years.  4.3 acres are expected to come out of the CRP program over the next two years.  That's 4.3 million missed opportunites to put the land under sustainable or organic production and to provide economic opportunity and entry to beginning and minority farmers.   To sign on, just send an email to Annette@sustainableagriculture.net. To see the letter Click on 'Read More' Tab Below. The Deadline is Friday, October 9th. Organizations only please.  Individuals can sign our petitition.

RE: CRP Transition Option October 9, 2009 The Honorable Tom Vilsack Secretary of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave. SW Washington, DC 20250 Dear Secretary Vilsack, We, the undersigned organizations, applaud your efforts to address the particular needs of beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.  We are writing to you with an urgent request that concerns the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Option-a program that was created in the 2008 Farm Bill to specifically address beginning and socially disadvantaged producers' access to land. The new transition option provides incentives for CRP landowners who do not intend to extend their CRP contracts or re-enroll land back into the CRP to transfer the land through sale or lease to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers who are willing to return the land to production using sustainable or organic grazing, cropping, or mixed cropping-grazing systems.  In return for the preference shown to beginning or minority farmers or ranchers, the landowner will receive an additional two years of payments.  The new beginning or minority farmer or rancher also gets the options for organic certification and for re-enrollment of conservation buffers into the CCRP.  The transition option was fully paid for through mandatory CCC dollars in the 2008 Farm Bill. Incentives to assist new farmers and ranchers in gaining access to land in the coming years are critically important.  The 2007 Census of Agriculture found that the number of operators 75 years and older grew by 20 percent from 2002, while the number of operators under 25 years old decreased by 30 percent.  The future of the nation's rural communities will depend on the next generation of farm families having access to land and farming that land in a way that is consistent with conservation or organic production systems goals. Currently, certain portions of the 2008 Farm Bill changes to CRP are included in the interim final rule (CRP "part 1"), while all the remaining 2008 Farm Bill CRP changes, including the transition option, will not proceed to rulemaking (CRP "part 2") for a very considerable length of time while an environmental impact statement is finalized. We urge you to work with the agency to move the transition option from part 2 of the IFR to part 1 and to quickly issue an interim rule for the transition option.   The USDA Budget Request shows that the Department and OMB believe that land in CRP will decline by about 4.3 million acres in 2009 and 2010 with declines tapering off thereafter.   Waiting to implement the transition option after these 4.3 million acres goes back into production, with much of it changing hands, is a wasted opportunity and a complete defeat of congressional intent. We believe it is quite clear that an option to transfer land coming out of the CRP to beginning or minority farmers with strong conservation parameters and the option for certified organic production is clearly better for the environment than the transfer of the land without the option.  Without the option it is likely that most former CRP land will go to the highest bidder with little or no conservation protection. Indeed, the Farm Service Agency has reached the same conclusion.  In the draft Programmatic Environmental Statement, issued for comment on September 9, 2009, both alternatives for implementing the 2008 Farm Bill changes to CRP include the transfer option. Therefore, the CRP transfer option is being held up by an environmental assessment that will have little or no impact on implementation of this important provision of the Farm Bill.  Tying up the transition option in an environmental assessment process during the very period of time when the most land is about to be transferred undermines the environmental values the National Environmental Policy Act is supposed to protect.  It is also a huge waste of taxpayer money that ensures that this hard won farm bill provision will be of little or no consequence during this farm bill cycle. Moreover, delaying the CRP transfer option is a missed opportunity to provide the new generation of sustainable and organic farmers badly needed access to land.  And the delay is at odds with the many provisions provided by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill to assist beginning and minority farmers and ranchers. In summary, we urge you to issue an interim final rule for the CRP transition option quickly, as part of the CRP "part one" rulemaking.  We also urge you to actively promote the transition option to beginning and minority farmers and ranchers and to the owners of the over 4 million acres expected to leave CRP this year and next. Thank you for consideration of our request. Sincerely,

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