Pheasants Forever concerned about future of CRP acres In a letter sent to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Ann M. Veneman, Dec. 4, Pheasants Forever outlined concerns for the future of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
The letter criticized low acceptance rates for the 26th general CRP sign-up conducted last spring and recent changes to the program's management policies. The letter also requested a meeting with Secretary Veneman to discuss these issues and the future of CRP.
USDA only accepted 2 million acres of the 4.1 million offered, despite being budgeted for accepting 2.8 million acres. Of special concern are North and South Dakota where those states saw only a 17 and 9 percent acceptance rate, respectively.
Pheasants Forever blamed the brief timeframe allotted for the sign-up and a lack of technical assistance available during the sign-up as the determining factors of the poor acceptance rates. The letter also addressed some Farm Service Agency (FSA) actions related to shortening critical nesting and brood-rearing periods for wildlife. Reductions to these periods may allow habitat disturbance during a time that is sensitive for wildlife production.
Similarly, Pheasants Forever's third area of concern involved other FSA actions related to over-aggressive management of haying and grazing. While Pheasants Forever understands the need to maintain, manage, hay, and graze CRP lands, Pheasants Forever feels that management policy decisions should be based upon the benefits to soil, water, air, and wildlife.
Finally, Pheasants Forever addressed recent changes made to the wetland restoration practice known as CP-23.
"We are very concerned about recent USDA actions related to the Conservation Reserve Program," explained Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever CEO. "CRP has become the benchmark by which all other conservation programs are judged. CRPs benefits to soil, water, air, wildlife and rural economies have been tremendous. With the shortcomings of the last sign-up so apparent, we wanted to address these issues now before a new CRP sign-up is in place. Consequently, we have requested an audience with Secretary Veneman and her staff to outline our concerns. Our hope is that we can work together to continue CRP's natural resource legacy."