The Farm Service Agency in Washington D.C. has released its statewide summary of acres accepted as part of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) 49th general sign-up in South Dakota. The dismal results – only two offers out of 727 applications were accepted for 101 total acres out of 42,352 acres offered – indicate South Dakota is poised to continue hemorrhaging wildlife habitat, with 155,000 additional acres of CRP contracts set to expire by fall of 2018.
The CRP general sign-up completed at the end of February generated more than 1.8 million acres in offers nationwide, but was only able to accept 23 percent of the 26,000 landowner applications because of the program’s 24 million-acre cap. As a result, USDA Secretary Vilsack has commented on the need for a larger CRP cap to meet landowner demand and provide countless natural resource benefits. In South Dakota specifically, CRP acres have declined steadily since 2007 when 1.5 million acres enrolled in the program produced the nation’s highest modern pheasant population and most useful environmental benefits in recent memory. The current statewide enrollment of 954,000 acres is well below Pheasants Forever’s goal of 1.5 million acres that had sustained the state’s hallmark wild pheasant population.
“South Dakotans should not be satisfied with a CRP acceptance rate of less than one percent as part of the nation’s largest voluntary conservation program; to be honest, it’s an insult to the state,” says Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s director in South Dakota. “In a time when farmers and ranchers are requesting conservation program assistance, years of conservation cuts are coming home to roost. This is bad news for South Dakota producers, South Dakota natural resources and South Dakota wildlife.”
CRP is a voluntary program designed to help farmers, ranchers and landowners protect their environmentally sensitive land. Eligible landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland throughout the duration of 10 to 15 year contracts. “South Dakota is losing out on larger blocks of general CRP that provide the most benefit in terms of nesting habitat for upland wildlife – it’s a tragedy for the pheasant capital,” added Nomsen.
Pheasants Forever is urging South Dakota residents to voice their opinion to the state’s elected officials for a stronger CRP presence that supports rural farming communities and robust wildlife populations. For more information about Pheasants Forever in South Dakota or questions regarding the recent CRP general sign-up, contact Dave Nomsen at (605) 864-8138 or email.