New legislation would improve the grazing and wildlife habitat potential of the conservation reserve program
U.S. Senators John Thune (RS.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, introduced the Conservation Reserve Program Enhancement Act (CRP). This legislation would strengthen the CRP by improving access to grazing, providing more registration options for producers, and addressing CRP implementation issues following the 2018 Farm Bill.
“As a long-time supporter of CRP, this common sense legislation would help improve the multi-use benefits of this important conservation program, including wildlife habitat and livestock forage potential,” Thune said. “After receiving valuable feedback from the people of South Dakota, it is clear that we need to make changes to ensure CRP continues to be an effective option for growers and landowners. I look forward to making progress on these important issues and proposals as we begin work on the next Farm Bill.
“The conservation reserve program helps equip our farmers with the tools to conserve and improve soil, water quality and wildlife habitat,” Klobuchar said. “This bipartisan legislation makes common sense improvements to the CRP that will strengthen conservation practices and landowner enrollment in this vital program.”
“CRP has successfully achieved many of its goals since its inception, but leaving grasslands unused is not the healthiest way to manage them,” said Eric Jennings, president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. “Our native species, on which the CRP acres are seeded, have evolved over the past several hundred years with animals such as cattle grazing and using them. It is important for the health of grass species and the soil below them to continue to have animals grazing them to stimulate growth and deposit nutrients into the soil with their manure. In addition to the benefits that cattle bring to grass and soil, the provision of water infrastructure and fencing would provide a huge benefit to cattle herders in times of drought. Over the past year, we have seen thousands of cattle leave our state due to a lack of forage. Having the infrastructure in place would allow producers to use CRP acres to alleviate drought instead of having to sell their cows. We applaud the efforts of Senators Thune and Klobuchar to provide cost-shared funds to build the infrastructure needed to put livestock back on these lands.
“When it comes to private land conservation programs, few are more critical to conserving waterfowl habitat than CRP,” said Julia Peebles, director of agriculture and sustainability at Ducks Unlimited. “We appreciate Senators Thune and Klobuchar for their leadership and aspiration to enhance an already successful program by expanding flexibility for ranchers to utilize grazing activities while maintaining wildlife habitat on the CRP. Sensible provisions like this encourage greater participation in an important conservation program while helping landowners get the most out of their land.
“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever support these proposed changes because they will provide more flexibility for farmers, ranchers and landowners in implementing conservation practices across the country,” said Jim Inglis, director of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “The CRP is an important program that provides enormous benefits to pheasants, quail and many other species of wildlife, and we thank Senators Thune and Klobuchar for their efforts to ensure that the CRP continues to operate for producers, wildlife and rural communities.”
The CRP Improvement Act:
– Make CRP grazing a more attractive option by offering cost sharing for setting up grazing infrastructure – including fencing and water distribution – on all CRP practices and contracts if grazing is included in the approved conservation plan;
-Increase the annual CRP payment limit from $50,000, which was established in 1985, to $125,000 to accommodate inflationary and rising land value pressures and provide landowners with more enrollment options to the CRP to ensure that resources are properly stored;
– Reinstate mid-contract management cost-sharing payments for activities that are not related to haymaking or grazing; and
Permanently establish the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement practice as part of the ongoing CRP.
Source: Minnesota Senator Amy Klbuchar/South Dakota Senator John Thune