2017 CRP enrollment in Hanson County nearly quadruples 2016 total

HANSON COUNTY, S.D. -- Conservation is booming in Hanson County as farmers enrolled nearly 2,000 acres of land into a federal reserve program this year.


HANSON COUNTY, S.D. - Conservation is booming in Hanson County as farmers enrolled nearly 2,000 acres of land into a federal reserve program this year.

Hanson County acres enrolled in the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have skyrocketed this year, according to Hanson County Conservation District (HCCD) Manager Annette Steilen, who said more than three times as many CRP acres were enrolled in the county than last year.

"I know that we put in a lot more acres than a lot of counties in the state," Steilen said. "So that's kind of a big deal for our little county." CRP acreage has risen rapidly in Hanson County over the last few years. HCCD planted 390 grassland acres in 2013, 530 acres in 2014 and 255 acres in 2015.

Last year, the organization planted 538 acres of CRP land, but it has already established 1,928 new acres of CRP grasslands this year. HCCD plants grasslands in the spring and fall, so there could be even more CRP land by end of year.

According to Owen Anderson, executive director for Davison and Hanson Counties' Farm Service Agency (FSA) office, there are now 12,576 active CRP acres in Hanson County. For comparison, there are 9,737 acres enrolled in Davison County.


CRP is a federally funded program that allows producers to sign 10- or 15-year contracts to remove portions of land from agricultural production in exchange for a yearly payment.

Anderson attributed the rise to a strong CRP rate and the poor agriculture economy.

"It's kind of a bird in the hand versus two in the bush kind of thing ... so you're trying to lock in a good rate of return," Anderson said.

The CRP rate has risen in recent years but has remained the same since 2015. According to Anderson, Hanson County farmers receive an average of $172 per acre after a steady increase since 2009, when farmers received $86 per acre.

The actual price offered varies depending on the quality of the ground, and landowners may be given additional incentives to allow public hunting access or to perform other practices.

Producers will be offered less money for wetlands than for fertile farmground, for instance. Anderson said that allows the program to preserve crucial wetland habitat without overpaying for it.

Supply and demand

Since 2010, the price has been better than in neighboring Davison County, where farmers received an average of $141 this year, but Owen Fagerhaug, conservation program manager for South Dakota FSA, said CRP rent prices are even higher further east.


Fagerhaug said many counties in the state are offering 10 percent more than the cash rent price, as reported by the USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service, and there has been plenty of interest, especially as acreage nationwide bumps up against the 24 million acre cap. "We're finding there's a lot more demand than there is supply," Fagerhaug said. "As a state, it's been a very popular program this year, and it continues to be that going forward.

To keep up with the rapid rise locally, Steilen said HCCD purchased a larger grass drill, which plants grass seeds without disrupting the ground. The new drill was 26 feet wide, larger than the 15-foot drill HCCD was previously using.

"We couldn't have gotten it done with that smaller drill. There's just no way," Steilen said.

The new drill usually has a retail price of about $65,000, but after receiving a discounted rate and trading in its old drill, HCCD took out a loan of approximately $28,000.

HCCD also reached out to Pheasants Forever for help, which donated $5,000 toward the purchase.

Dave Allen, president of the Mitchell chapter of Pheasants Forever, said the donation was made two or three months ago and was pleased to hear about the rapid growth of nearby grasslands.

"I think it's great for everybody. More habitat, more birds, more wildlife," Allen said.

Steilen said she's already seeing plenty of pheasants, and she expects the new CRP lands to bolster this season's pheasant hunt. She also said more CRP land could help the ag economy by balancing supply and demand.


While nearly 2,000 new acres of CRP land is out of the norm for Hanson County, Steilen said she's already received plenty of interest from farmers hoping to enroll in the program, so she expects to see similar enrollment figures in 2018.

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