Outdoors blog: CRP sign-up announced at Pheasant Fest
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
CRP sign-up announced at Pheasant Fest
At Pheasants Forever's annual Pheasant Fest Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that a new Conservation Reserve Program general signup will occur in late spring or early summer.
"I can guarantee you we will have a general signup for the first time since 2006," he declared, according to a USDA news release. "No program is as important as CRP (in controlling wind and water soil erosion)."
CRP, a program of the federal Farm Bill, pays farmers to set aside marginal lands and plant grassland cover. It has proven to be excellent cover for pheasants and some species of prairie songbirds.
Vilsack said the new sign-up will be designed to do a better job of targeting acres -- focusing on lower productive lands. He said a targeted CRP will give "more bang for the buck for taxpayers." The Secretary admitted rental payments "will be a challenge. But crop prices are moderating, which will make it easier to be competitive."
The new signup arrives in time to address the 4.4 million acres of CRP expiring in September this year. An additional 14.2 million acres are slated to expire between 2011 and 2013.
Vilsack also announced 300,000 acres will be added to the continuous CRP program. "Fifty thousand acres will be allocated to The 'Duck Nesting Habitat Initiative,' 100,000 acres for the 'Upland Bird Habitat Buffers' initiative targeting quail and 150,000 acres for the 'Safe Acres For Wildlife Enhancement' program," explained Vilsack.
The Secretary also signed a first-ever memorandum of understanding between the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Pheasants Forever. The MOU establishes the framework for the three groups to work together in partnership toward common goals -- the implementation of farm bill conservation programs.
Pheasants Forever, along with other state wildlife partners, currently employs 50 farm bill and partner biologists in eight states.