News release from Environmental Defense:
Fifteen conservation groups today sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer strongly urging him to reject pressure from Congress and producer groups "to allow the penalty-free early release of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)." USDA has been urged to release up to 24 million acres from CRP - roughly three-fourths of the land currently enrolled in the program - and put it back into production. This move would result in a loss of billions of dollars of taxpayer investment in conservation on these lands.
"A penalty-free early release of the magnitude you are considering - millions of acres - would deliver a devastating blow to the nation's soil, water, and wildlife habitat, and significantly increase global warming," said the letter. "Because most CRP lands are marginal for cropping, even if all CRP acres were brought back into commodity production, the impact on aggregate commodity supplies and prices would be modest... We urge you to protect the taxpayers' investment in soil quality, water quality, and wildlife habitat and not allow landowners to leave CRP contracts early without fully reimbursing the Treasury for the taxpayer-funded investment in those lands."