Donovan E. Todd III, executive director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Maine, announced that signup is under way for the Transition Incentives Program, a new program under the Conservation Title of the 2008 Farm Bill, to encourage retired or retiring owners or operators to transition their land to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.

“Ensuring that our nation’s land is returned to production using sustainable methods is critical not only for our future food supply, but also for the economic future of our rural communities,” said Todd. “Access to land is one of the greatest challenges faced by new farmers. The Transition Incentives Program is one more tool in the USDA tool kit to protect family farms and support beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.”

If all program requirements are met, TIP provides annual rental payments to the retiring farmer for up to two additional years after the date of the expiration of the Conservation Reserve Program contract, provided the transition is not to a family member. To learn more about the program, producers interested in applying and participating in TIP should visit their local USDA Service Center or FSA county office or fsa.usda.gov.

To be eligible, TIP requires that the retired or retiring farmer or rancher: Have land enrolled in the CRP that is in the last year of the contract; agree to allow the beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher to make conservation and land improvements; agree to sell, or have a contract to sell, or agree to long-term lease (a minimum of five years) of the land under CRP contract to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher by Oct. 1 of the year the CRP contract expires.

Supporting local economies and providing opportunities for beginning or socially disadvantaged Americans with a desire to farm or ranch is one of the many ways the Obama Administration and USDA are working to rebuild and revitalize rural America.