WASHINGTON May 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday it would allow producers to extend or modify contracts on nearly 40 percent of the acres expiring in the Conservation Reserve Program during 2009.
USDA said about 1.5 million acres out of a total 3.9 million acres could be extended under contracts scheduled to expire on Sept. 30. The extension is voluntary and farmers can sign-up between May 18 and June 30.
The extension was put in place to ensure USDA meets a 32-million-acre ceiling set for the reserve in the 2008 farm law set. The 32-million-acre cap goes through 2012.
Currently, some 33.7 million acres are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve, created in 1985, which pays landowners an annual rent to idle fragile land for 10 years or more.
(Reporting by Christopher Doering; Editing by David Gregorio;)