What will the immediate (within 5 years) and long term (5 years and beyond) impact be on NA Waterfowl populations due to the recent farm bill legislation and the subsequent loss of millions of CRP acres due to commodity prices and the increases in corn production due to ethanol? - Perry Scioneaux
Very good question but one that is difficult to capture definitively. We know that CRP was responsible for significantly increasing hatch rates and as a result duck production from the US portions of the Prairie Pothole Region. Millions of acres of largely marginal cropland converted to perennial cover made the landscape much more productive to breeding ducks as it dissipated the impacts of predation.
With that being said, the erosion of CRP acres and the loss of native grasslands in the Dakota’s reduces the regions productivity because as cover is lost incrementally, and acres return to production the impact of predation is increased. Also, the wetlands imbedded in what was once CRP will likely be less productive once the cover is removed.
Likely we will see the impacts of the loss of this cover quickly as ducks that returned this spring will be faced with a much different landscape than they have over the past decade, landscapes that had ample cover may be reduced and thus production would be reduced. If we continue to see losses of CRP and native grass, the losses will compound.
As such it is a high priority within the conservation community to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update CRP rental rates to attempt to keep them competitive with cash rental rates. On the issue of native grass, all in the conservation community are working with the Governors of Prairie Pothole Region states to convince them that they need to “opt in” to Sodsaver to protect remaining grasslands.
This is a tough question to answer Perry but I hope I helped a bit!