Changes Considered in Conservation Programs
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program might be facing an overhaul in next year’s farm bill, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated. The USDA still wants farmers to commit 4 million acres of fragile farmland. Vilsack hinted that landowners might be allowed to grow biofuels, such as switch grass, that would improve wildlife habitats. “We’re looking at whether it makes sense to use CRP land for biofuel.”
Farm Service Agency administrator Jonathan Coppess said that the USDA is seeking to balance conservation and production in the upcoming months, stating, “We need to do our best to focus the limited dollars we have to make the best investment.”
The 25 year old Conservation Reserve Program currently prevents roughly 31 million acres of fragile agricultural land from being farmed, preventing soil erosion, reducing runoff pollution, improving water quality, and creating wildlife habitats. In return for commitments to not farm, landowners receive rental payments from the government on 10-20 year contracts.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer