Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why it matters: As one of the most successful voluntary, private land conservation programs in the world, increased CRP enrollments represent a win for conservation, a win for sportsmen and women, and, arguably most importantly, a win for farmers and ranchers. This is particularly true in the face of increasingly high input costs that are facing many farmers and ranchers today. Fortunately, CRP provides a way to diversify an operation and focus inputs on the most productive acres, all while providing critical habitat for species that we, as sportsmen and women, care about the most.
On July 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that more than 3.1 million acres had been accepted during the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Signup that took place earlier this year. Grassland CRP is a specialized opportunity focused on conserving grasslands and promoting healthy grassland ecosystems while retaining the ability of landowners to perform haying and grazing practices. As part of the CRP umbrella, arguably the most successful voluntary private lands conservation programs in the world, this record-breaking Grassland CRP enrollment highlights the important value that CRP can have for our nation’s soil, water, and wildlife resources and for our nation’s private landowners.
Overall, CRP has seen plenty of struggles since its peak in the mid-2000s. However, 2022 is serving as a reminder of the safety net that the program can provide to our nation’s farmers and ranchers, many of whom are experiencing record high input costs this year. By voluntarily enrolling acres in CRP and receiving payments for installing conservation practices, farmers and ranchers are able to focus their commodity efforts, and the associated costs, on those acres best suited for farming and ranching while providing conservation value on less-suitable acres. Overall, the goal of the programs is to create a more profitable and sustainable system. However, this requires us to recognize CRP as a complement to, rather than competitive with, traditional agricultural practices.
The conservation community is keeping a close eye on the status of the Farm Bill’s conservation programs, including CRP, as we look toward the development of the 2023 Farm Bill. These results will play an important role in guiding lawmakers as they determine where future investments are directed. Looking toward 2023, CSF’s Midwest Staff held a Farm Bill breakfast forum in Wichita, KS last week during which state legislators from the region discussed the 2023 Farm Bill and ways for state legislators to engage. Special thanks for their support of this forum go to Title Sponsors: Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Reynolds American Inc., and Host Sponsor: the Kansas Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?