OXFORD – Farmers and landowners who want to retire environmentally sensitive cropland from production for a period of 10-15 years and receive annual rental payments will have the opportunity to apply for the Conservation Reserve program. The program runs from May 5 through May 30. Applications will be accepted at the Oxford County Farm Service Agency office.

The program’s goal is to reduce erosion and protect groundwater by planting grasses or trees on eligible cropland. In exchange, participants are eligible to receive annual rental payments, a maintenance incentive payment and reimbursement for up to 50 percent of the cost of establishing approved conservation practices. Rental payments are based on soil productivity and the average cash-rent in the county.

Eligible cropland must have been planted or considered planted to an agricultural commodity at least four of the six years between 1996 and 2001. A major change under the 2002 Farm Bill now allows cropland planted to alfalfa and other multi-year grasses to qualify for enrollment. Regardless of cropping history, all potential acres must physically and legally be capable of being planted in a normal manner.

New provisions also allow Conservation Reservice program acreage to be hayed or grazed under certain conditions. Annual rental payments would be reduced on the harvested acres.

Current participants with contracts expiring in Sept. 2003 or Sept. 2004 may offer to re-enroll their acres. If a re-enrolled contract s accepted under this sign-up, the new contract will become effective either at the beginning of the next fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2003, or the following fiscal year, Oct. 1 2004.

This is one of two enrollment periods under the current farm bill. The next general sign-up will occur at a date to be announced later, but before Oct. 1, 2007.

For more information and additional eligibility requirements, contact the Oxford County Farm Service Agency office at 743-5789 or visit the FSA Web page at www.fsa.usda.gov.

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