Pheasants Forever (PF) and Quail Forever (QF) were pleased to be joined today by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during its sold out 30th anniversary banquet in Minneapolis. During his keynote address at the event, Secretary Vilsack announced much needed conservation tools to the attendees. The audience for the announcement included U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator Al Franken, U.S. Representative Collin Peterson, and more than 1,000 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members.
The Secretary outlined three major USDA conservation measures for America’s farmers and ranchers. First, a new 4-week Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General Sign-up is scheduled to start May 20th and will provide landowners with a competitive opportunity to enroll their toughest-to-farm, environmentally sensitive acres in CRP for the benefit of wildlife, water quality and soils. The last general signup occurred during the spring of 2012, in which nearly 4.5 million acres were offered and 3.9 million of those acres were enrolled in the program.
Second, Secretary Vilsack announced there will be a review of soil rental rates in an effort to keep CRP competitive with current near-record commodity-driven land prices. And third, Secretary Vilsack announced plans to reopen enrollment for Continuous CRP acreage made possible by the extension of the 2008 Farm Bill through 2013. The reopening of Continuous CRP makes available 1 million acres reallocated in 2012 to some of CRP’s most targeted and effective practices, like CP38 SAFE and CP33 Buffers.
“Under President Obama’s leadership, USDA has worked with a record number of farmers, ranchers and landowners – more than 500,000 across the nation – to achieve record benefits in soil and water conservation,” said Secretary Vilsack. “By ensuring that CRP remains strong, vibrant and an economically viable option for producers, we can ensure impactful conservation efforts in the years to come – including healthy wildlife habitat in every corner of our nation.”
“We absolutely needed these tools to be delivered now. Considering the massive habitat losses experienced as a result of last summer’s drought and the fact producers are planning their spring plantings right now, this was a critical announcement for farmers, hunters and conservationists,” says Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s vice-president of governmental affairs. “Of particular importance today was mention of the soil rental rates review. Improving CRP’s financial viability is critical to making this program successful for our farmer friends.”
The Conservation Reserve Program is a voluntary program designed to help farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers protect their environmentally sensitive land. Through CRP, eligible landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland. Land can be enrolled on a continuous basis for a period of 10 years. Land currently not enrolled in CRP may be offered in this sign-up provided all eligibility requirements are met.
Landowners interested in learning more about the upcoming general signup, increased soil rental rates or the continuous CRP acres available, are asked to contact a Pheasants Forever Farm Bill wildlife biologist. For additional inquiries, please contact Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever vice-president of governmental affairs at (320) 834-3076 or email Dave.
Image courtesy Pheasants Forever