February 27, 2010
USDA Secretary Announces New General CRP Signup
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the agency will offer a general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup later in 2010, the first since 2006.
Vilsack made the announcement at National Pheasant Fest in Des Moines, Iowa.
“This is welcome news for agricultural producers and hunters alike,” said Delta Waterfowl Senior Vice President John Devney. “CRP is a proven, time-tested voluntary program that provides numerous benefits to our land and waters, including grass nesting cover that each year produces hundreds of thousands of ducks for duck hunters across the U.S.”
Established in 1985, CRP pays farmers and ranchers to idle environmentally sensitive lands and plant them to grass and other cover types. The voluntary program currently has 31.1 million acres enrolled nationwide, down nearly 7 million acres in the last three years. In addition, the 2008 Farm Bill reduced the national CRP allotment from 39.2 million to 32 million acres, and the Obama administration has floated the idea of reducing the existing cap to 24 million.
“We need to keep CRP acreage at the 32-million cap, especially considering the millions of acres that were lost in the last farm bill,” Devney said.
Despite the announcement of a new general signup, Devney notes that contracts on millions of CRP acres in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR), often called the nation’s duck factory, are slated to expire over the next several years.
For example, North Dakota currently has 2.7 million CRP acres, down from its historic high of 3.4 million in 2007. Devney says significant acreage losses could happen, and fast. “Starting in 2010 and by the end of 2012, contracts on an additional 1.5 million acres are slated to expire in North Dakota,” he said. “That’s a lot of lost nesting cover for ducks and other ground-nesting birds.”
According to research by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CRP in the Prairie Pothole Region produces as many as 2 million incremental ducks each year to the fall flight.