Ducks Unlimited supports flexibility for ranchers affected by extreme weather
WASHINGTON - JULY 7, 2008 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program in counties affected by flooding will be opened for grazing. This action will provide feed and forage for livestock while maintaining the conservation benefits to waterfowl habitat. Ducks Unlimited supports this method of keeping the Conservation Reserve Program as a practical option for landowners. This decision reinforces the importance of grasslands to the nation, especially in waterfowl breeding areas.
“Ducks Unlimited believes that well managed ranching and duck nesting habitat work well together, and this move underscores how the Conservation Reserve Program has served both ranchers and waterfowl for over twenty years,” said Director of Agriculture Conservation Policy, Barton James. “Using the land in this way, especially to provide relief for ranchers during this time of hardship, is good policy and we’re pleased that USDA has chosen this route.”
Ducks Unlimited has encouraged allowing well managed grazing on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program in emergency situations. Flooding in the Midwest and drought in the Great Plains underscores the need for a common sense approach to land use policy. USDA’s action addresses this situation in a comprehensive fashion, allowing for a positive outcome for both agriculture and conservation.
In addition to the benefits of Conservation Reserve Program land for cattle herds, the program has also been responsible for conserving thousands of acres of wetlands and uplands. The Conservation Reserve Program also adds more than 2.2 million ducks to the fall migration each year, as well conserving more than 450 million tons of topsoil and sequestering more than 48 million tons of carbon to combat global warming. The decision to open acres in flooded counties highlights the importance of having Conservation Reserve Program land available in disaster situations.
The Conservation Reserve Program has also been helpful in mitigating the effects of droughts, like the one that the Great Plains is experiencing now. DU supports efforts to open Conservation Reserve Program acreage in North Dakota for grazing by livestock producers in severely drought-stricken areas. Allowing managed grazing on select Conservation Reserve Program land will maintain those mitigating qualities, while providing some relief for ranchers from the dry conditions.
The Conservation Reserve Program faces additional challenges in the form of recent proposals to terminate contracts, without reimbursement of the conservation payments made to landowners.
“Cultivating Conservation Reserve Program land without reimbursing the taxpayer for the money paid to keep their marginal cropland in a more appropriate use sends the wrong message about the value that we place on conservation,” said James. “Ducks Unlimited believes that we must be clear about the need to ‘farm the best, and conserve the rest’ and not squander the taxpayer’s investment into these lands.”
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 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.