The Farm Service Agency has modified burning specifications for land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program practice CP25 - Rare and Declining Habitat. CRP is a voluntary program that converts cropland to conservation covers through ten to fifteen year contracts.
The CP25 maintenance burn requirement was developed in the 1990's with recommendation by the Kansas Technical Committee and approval by the Kansas FSA State Committee. It was recognized that burning benefits the development of native grasslands and improves the habitat for wildlife, according to Bill Fuller, Kansas FSA state director.
"Environmental conditions were significantly different then than now," Fuller says. "Many regions of the state are currently experiencing a multi-year drought. There has been a massive accumulation of vegetative fuel over the years in some areas. Homes and other development have taken place on or near CRP lands. This is a sampling of legitimate reasons why exemptions and alternatives to the burning requirement should be occasionally allowed."
Local FSA County Committees have been given full authority to grant individual burning exemptions to CRP participants, he adds.
Occasional exemptions during the final year of the CRP contract may be granted by the local county committee when a particular burn would create a significant safety hazard that meets the following conditions:
Conditions due to significant drought, high winds, excessive temperatures and/or low humidity that have prevented completing the prescribed burn.
Close proximity to homes, businesses, housing developments, interstate highways, farmsteads, windbreaks, fuel facilities, etc., especially those constructed after the beginning of the CRP contract.
Create conditions susceptible to wind erosion following the burn in consultation with NRCS.
Any time the burn would violate State law or County ordinance during the contract period.
If an exemption is granted for any reason, a light disking or a maintenance mowing/shredding should be used as a substitute required maintenance practice without cost-share assistance. Swathing, haying or grazing is prohibited by National Policy.
"This exemption policy will not be a blanket lifting of the maintenance burn requirement," Fuller says. "Local county committees will have the authority to exempt certain acreages with safety hazards."