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Published November 04, 2009, 10:00 PM

N.D. ranks fourth in nation in CRP acres

Only three states have more land than North Dakota enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, set up two decades ago to pay farmers competitive rentals to put, generally, erodible land into grass for environmental reasons as well as to lower crop production, thus putting upward pressure on crop prices.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

Only three states have more land than North Dakota enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, set up two decades ago to pay farmers competitive rentals to put, generally, erodible land into grass for environmental reasons as well as to lower crop production, thus putting upward pressure on crop prices.

After Texas’ 3.85 million acres, Montana’s 3.21 million and Kansas’ 3.1 million acres in CRP, as of September, North Dakota has the fourth-most at 2.88 million acres.

That means about 8.3 percent of North Dakota’s 34.48 million acres of crop and pasture land is in the CRP. For comparison’s sake, all wheat acres total 8.39 million this year in North Dakota, a full 24.3 percent of the total farm acres.

Minnesota had 1.7 million acres in the CRP program as of September.

In 1995, North Dakota led the nation with 3.5 million acres in CRP; Texas soon took over the lead.

In the past several years, many thousands of acres have come out of CRP in North Dakota largely because high crop prices wooed farmers to put more land into wheat, beans, corn and potatoes.

Corn, especially, has gained big acres in North Dakota in the past few years and the production of higher-yielding corn, measured in bushels, now rivals the production of the hard red spring wheat the state is famous for.

CRP rentals paid by the federal government have typically rivaled or bettered market rates for cash rent for the lower-producing acres that usually get signed into the CRP program. But overall, CRP rentals paid in North Dakota lag far behind some other states, especially Iowa where the soil is more uniformly high quality and high-producing.

This year in North Dakota, CRP rentals averaged $34.33 an acre statewide while in Minnesota, they averaged $64.52 an acre. In Iowa, they averaged $116.60 this year.

Total CRP rental income this year in North Dakota was $98.85 million; in Minnesota, $109.8 million, according to figures on the Web site of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com.

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