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Published September 19, 2009, 12:00 AM

Conservation Reserve Program ag program meeting open for public comment

The Conservation Reserve Program is one of America’s most important agricultural programs – and one in which the interests of farmers and hunters sometimes align and sometimes conflict.

By: Jon Knutson, INFORUM

The Conservation Reserve Program is one of America’s most important agricultural programs – and one in which the interests of farmers and hunters sometimes align and sometimes conflict.

Area residents have a chance to comment on CRP at a public meeting Monday in Moorhead. It’s one of nine regional meetings nationwide.

Comments collected at the nine meetings will help the U.S. Department of Agriculture make changes to the program consistent with the 2008 Farm Bill, which reduces how many acres can be enrolled in the program.

For farmers, the timing of the Moorhead meeting is “frustrating,” said Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation and a Garden City, Minn., farmer.

Area farmers are busy with harvest or preparing for it.

Monday’s meeting should interest wildlife enthusiasts, who have a big stake in the future of CRP, said Greg Link, assistant chief of wildlife with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

He hopes for a strong turnout to signal that the program is important to hunters.

“These (higher) wildlife populations we’ve had the past 20 years, that’s solely on the back of CRP,” he said.

Some background:

CRP pays farmers, both through annual rent and cost-share aid, to plant grasses and trees that protect topsoil from erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat.

The voluntary program, which dates to 1985, is administered by the Farm Service Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with support from a number of federal, state and local agencies.

Under the U.S. Farm Bill passed last year, the maximum number of CRP acres nationwide will fall from 39.2 million acres to 32 million acres in 2010.

About 33.6 million acres are enrolled in the program nationwide now, according to the Farm Service Agency Web site.

Farmers nationwide have been taking land out of the program in recent years, largely because of strong crop prices.

North Dakota ranks fourth in the nation with 2.8 million acres in the program.

That’s down from a high of 3.3 million acres, Link noted.

Minnesota ranks sixth with 1.6 million CRP acres.

About 216,000 acres in North Dakota and 167,000 acres in Minnesota are set to expire, or be dropped from the program, at the end of September.

Less land in the program meets less wildlife habitat and fewer opportunities for hunters, so it’s vital to keep CRP acreage from falling more, Link said.

Farmers are looking carefully at what they should do with land in CRP, said Doug Goehring, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner.

Conditions have changed in the past 20 years, and some land that once fit well in CRP might be better suited today for cropping, he said.

If you go

  • What: Public meeting on the Conservation Reserve Program

  • When: 5-7 p.m. Monday

  • Where: AmericInn Lodge and Suites, 600 30th Ave. S., Moorhead

Info: Open to anyone who wants to comment on the program.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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