Pheasants Forever worried about fate of CRPPheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF) support the U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision not to offer "early outs" to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts without penalty.
Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF) support the U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision not to offer "early outs" to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts without penalty.
The USDA announcement comes after months of speculation about early outs, which would have led to a multi-million acre loss of environmentally sensitive lands currently providing wildlife habitat, protecting water quality, and safeguarding soil resources.
However, PF/QF warns of further trouble ahead for CRP, which has already seen 3 million acres leave the program with an additional 13 million more acres in line for expiration in the next three years.
"We are pleased with the USDA's announcement today, and thank them for protecting CRP's legacy for wildlife and natural resources," said Dave Nomsen, PF/QF's vice president of government affairs. "However, there is no question CRP is in jeopardy of heading down the Soil Bank path if we don't address the program's economic viability, given the landscape of today's agricultural market."
Often credited with producing the "glory days" for wildlife, the Soil Bank Conservation Reserve Program was terminated by the USDA in 1962.
As Soil Bank contracts expired in the early 1970s, millions of acres of critical wildlife habitat were plowed fence row-to-fence row, causing wildlife populations to plummet. Not until the creation of CRP in 1985 did wildlife populations begin to rebound, bringing numerous environmental and landowner benefits as well.
CRP offers annual payments for 10-15 year contracts to participants who establish grass, shrubs, and tree cover on environmentally sensitive lands. Landowners receive CRP payments based on the soil rental rates of a given area. As the demand for crops increase, so does the value of a landowner's acres for row crop production; however, the CRP soil rental rates have not kept pace with the current agricultural economy.
"It is imperative for CRP soil rental rates to get updated immediately. Updated soil rental rates would keep our most environmentally sensitive acres in conservation, benefiting all of society through flood mitigation, protected water quality, as well as providing critical habitat for wildlife," explained Nomsen.
"Additionally, USDA should continue to expand the CRP practices that are gaining momentum. The new SAFE practice has been met with widespread farmer enthusiasm. I'd like to again reiterate Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever's request for an additional 500,000 SAFE acres to maximize our conservation opportunity at present."
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever implore all Americans concerned about wildlife, water quality, flooding and hunting opportunities to contact their U.S. Representative at http://www.pheasantsforever.org/page/1/LegislativeAction.jsp, U.S. Senators at http://www.pheasantsforever.org/page/1/LegislativeAction.jsp, and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?edeployment_action=changenav&navid=FEEDBACK_FORM and let them know that you support updating soil rental rates.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are non-profit conservation organizations dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail and other wildlife populations in North America through habitat improvement, land management, public awareness and education.
PF/QF has more than 129,000 members in 700 local chapters across the continent.