STATEMENT BY AGRICULTURE SECRETARY MIKE JOHANNS REGARDING THE CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM
"Today's report on planting intentions suggests that market forces are inspiring changes that will help to meet the high demand for corn. According to the report, U.S. farmers intend to plant 15 percent more corn acres, 90.5 million acres, in 2007. This would be an increase of 12 million acres over 2006 and the largest number since 1944.
"In light of this information, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will not offer penalty-free early releases from Conservation Reserve Program contracts at this time. As circumstances exist today, I would not anticipate a change in this policy in 2007.
"At the same time, we are not planning to conduct a general CRP signup in 2007. We have offered new general CRP signups only four of the past seven years. Although we have assumed for budget purposes that there would be no new general CRP enrollments during the next two years, I am open to the possibility of new enrollments for 2008.
"I want to emphasize, acres under continuous CRP signup, such as filter strips, riparian buffers and others, are not impacted by general signup decisions. Enrollment of acres that qualify for continuous signup is ongoing. In fact, last week, USDA announced our intention to enroll 500,000 acres in new continuous CRP contracts to address the specific habitat needs of fish or wildlife, including at-risk species, on a state by state basis.
"While I believe today's report on planting intentions will help to ease concern about our corn supply, I will continue to closely monitor the situation. I will not hesitate in the future to make adjustments to USDA programs if needed to achieve a balance in the agricultural sector."