New report shows clean water, clean air and more wildlife habitat the result of farm bill program
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2007 – A new government report released last week clearly shows that the Conservation Reserve Program provides major benefits to Americans. The report estimates that land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program “. . . virtually eliminates soil and nutrient loss . . .” among other benefits.
Research shows soil and nutrient runoff, particularly fertilizer residue from farm fields, is a major contributor to water pollution. This pollution is linked to serious environmental problems like the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico where few ocean creatures can survive in an area the size of New Jersey.
The report shows that poor cropland put back into natural cover through the Conservation Reserve Program reduced soil runoff by 99 percent than if the land remained in crop production.
“This report is a slam dunk in showing the obvious benefits of the Conservation Reserve Program to the American public. Tens of millions of acres of wildlife habitat, clean water, clean air and a stable source of income to farmers and ranchers make this a win, win, win program for everyone involved,” said DU farm bill policy expert Bart James. “It’s important that the Conservation Reserve Program continues to have a general sign-up period during the next two years, so these incredible public benefits are carried into the future.
The Bush Administration through the U.S. Department of Agriculture has called for a freeze on any new Conservation Reserve Program sign-ups during the next two years. The new report vindicates conservation groups call for continued general sign-ups.
“Our philosophy is “farm the best and conserve the rest,” James said. “There’s definitely a place for an active Conservation Reserve Program in American agriculture. The benefits are too good to put on hold.”
The report also acknowledges research that shows the benefits of Conservation Reserve Program lands to duck, pheasant and grassland dependant bird species populations. Ducks Unlimited and partner researchers found that nearly 2.4 million ducks are produced annually from Conservation Reserve Program lands in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Great Plains.
Congress is presently working on developing a new farm bill. One of Ducks Unlimited’s main priorities is for the new farm bill to maintain at least 7.8 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program lands in the duck breeding rich Prairie Pothole Region of the Great Plains.
The Conservation Reserve Program is part of the huge federal farm bill. It pays landowners, particularly farmers and ranchers, to take poor farmland out of production and conserve it. Landowners sign 10- or 15-year contracts to protect this highly erodible land. The land provides habitat for wildlife and improves water and air quality.
The report done by the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture Food and Natural Resources estimates the water quality, air quality and soil carbon benefits generated by the Conservation Reserve Program. The report was done for the Farm Service Agency. The federal agency administers the program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Conservation Reserve Program has conserved more than 37 million acres since 1986.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with almost 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.