But it’s not just taxpayers that would benefit from keeping CRP grasslands on the landscape. In addition to the 2.2 million ducks hatched per year, CRP produces 15 million pheasants annually, along with myriad other wildlife. It also reduces annual cropland soil loss by about 450 million tons—enough to fill 37.5 million dump trucks. Nationwide, CRP has protected 2 million acres of wetlands and 170,000 miles of streams.
If retaining the current CRP acres saves money and provides all these benefits, does it stand to reason that more CRP could result in even greater returns? According to the APAC study, the answer is yes. By increasing CRP from its current 34.7 million acres to the statutory limit of 39.2 million acres, researchers concluded that by 2015 net farm income would increase by $600 million and the federal treasury would realize $6.3 billion in savings. Increase CRP to 45 million acres during 2006-2015, and farmers gain $1.7 billion while U.S. taxpayers save $12.7 billion.
Clearly, CRP is working for ducks, for landowners, and for taxpayers. But we cannot be complacent and assume that renewal or expansion of CRP is a sure bet. It will take the collective voices of DU supporters and all who appreciate wildlife to ensure that this remarkable program remains alive and well in the next Farm Bill. The entire UT APAC report on CRP can be viewed at: http://apacweb.ag.utk.edu/ppap/APAC-CRP-Report.pdf.
Dr. Jim Ringelman is director of conservation programs at DU’s Great Plains Office in Bismarck, North Dakota..