USDA unveils new conservation program

Mar 2, 2012, 9:10 PM

Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled a program Friday that will offer financial incentives for farmers to enroll up to 1 million new acres of grasslands and wetlands into the conservation reserve program.

The government pays farmers to idle about 30 million acres of erodible land. However, contracts on about 6.5 million acres expire Sept. 30. With high corn and soybean prices, there is concern that farmers might put more of the land into production to increase profitability.

Soybean prices, for example, surged 9.5 percent in February to close the month at $13.13 a bushel, the highest they’ve traded in five months.

The new program focuses on encouraging land to be set aside for wetlands restoration, increasing enrolled land by 200,000 acres. Grasslands enrollment increases by 700,000 acres, including land for duck nesting and upland bird habitat. The program also establishes 100,000 new acres to be set aside for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

By rolling out new programs and offering incentives, the USDA hopes to maintain the level of erodible farmland in the CRP program at the current level of about 30 million acres, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the AP in an interview.

The department also expects to see conservation programs come under close scrutiny in the budget process as cuts loom. The cost of the 1 million new acres will come from the USDA’s existing conservation budget.

“There’s recognition that we’re likely to have fewer conservation programs, but hopefully we have enough flexibility in the programs that remain to be able to meet and tailor conservation programs and projects to the individual needs of the operators and the individual needs of particular watersheds,” Vilsack said.

Setting aside land in CRP is one way to reduce erosion, which can cause farmland runoff and send chemicals into lakes and streams. The USDA estimates CRP keeps more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorous from flowing into waterways.

By idling the erodible land and planting it in grasses and other vegetation, the program also creates wildlife habitat.

Roger Wolf, director of environmental programs for the Iowa Soybean Association, said farmers must weigh their options when land comes up for renewal this September.

“Farmers will take a look at what kind of return they can get in the marketplace to bring those lands back into production,” he said.

His family owns about 150 acres in southern Iowa, where steep and rolling land is common, and might take some of it out of CRP to plant, leaving the sloping hills in grasslands. In his situation, the land might bring $140 to $150 an acre in the CRP program but could yield well over $200 an acre if planted in corn or beans.

Groups like Pheasants Forever are encouraged by the focus on additional land set aside for wildlife habitat. Many states have seen pheasant numbers fall in recent years in part due to weather patterns but also due to habitat loss, said group spokesman Dave Nomsen.

“How do you in this intensely strong agricultural economy with a 25 percent increase in land values and record high commodity prices find a place for conservation?” he said. “I think this announcement is a big step in the right direction.”

Also Friday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar planned to recommend about $30 million of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund be spent in the prairie pothole region, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Montana. The $30 million would be about 70 percent of the conservation fund, which comes from the sale of federal duck stamps for hunting and birding.

The wetlands that serve as nesting areas for geese and ducks have shrunk as farmland expands.

The Interior Department also recommended the president’s budget include an additional $3.5 million in the Land and Water Conservation Fund for efforts in the prairies.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Associated Press

Consumer product agency issues warning on small magnetic balls linked to deaths

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning about the danger of high-powered, pea-sized magnets found in toys, announcing one company’s recall of a set containing them and saying it was aware of seven deaths linked to their ingestion. The federal agency estimated that ingestion of the magnets led to 2,400 hospital emergency room visits […]

27 minutes ago

Associated Press

Dozens of animals taken from Virginia roadside zoo as part of investigation

NATURAL BRIDGE, Va. (AP) — Over 100 animals –- both living and dead -– have been taken from a roadside zoo in western Virginia, according to court documents, as part of what state authorities are calling a criminal investigation. One search warrant executed Wednesday at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge County shows that 89 […]

53 minutes ago

Associated Press

Some Seattle cancer center patients are receiving threatening emails after last month’s data breach

SEATTLE (AP) — Some patients of a Seattle-based cancer center received threatening emails following a data breach last month. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center officials said a Nov. 19 hack hit a portion of the health care system’s clinical network, possibly leaking patient data. This week, some former and current patients received threatening emails claiming names, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

South Carolina jury convicts inmate in first trial involving deadly prison riots

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina jurors have found an inmate guilty of charges connected to the death of a fellow inmate during the deadliest U.S. prison riot of the past quarter-century. The Lee County jury deliberated less than an hour on Friday before finding Michael Juan “Flame” Smith guilty of assault and battery by […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Police fatally shoot man who officers say charged them with knives in West Texas

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Officers investigating a domestic disturbance fatally shot a man who they said ran at them with knives in West Texas, police said Saturday. Manuel Guillen, 34, died at a hospital following the shooting in Lubbock Friday night, police spokesperson Amber Edwards said. Edwards said the officers were responding to a report […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Minnesota grocery store clerk dies after customer impales him with a golf club, police say

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis store clerk died after a customer beat him and impaled him with a golf club, police said. The 66-year-old clerk was attacked Friday at the Oak Grove Grocery, a small neighborhood store in a residential area near downtown Minneapolis. A 44-year-old suspect is jailed on suspicion of murder. Police responded […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.

USDA unveils new conservation program