CRP acres in danger
YANKTON, S.D. -- One of the frustrating things about our economy sometimes is that it often is a balancing act that usually never achieves that precarious state of equilibrium. The win-win balance is elusive; more often, what looks like a nice pl...
YANKTON, S.D. -- One of the frustrating things about our economy sometimes is that it often is a balancing act that usually never achieves that precarious state of equilibrium. The win-win balance is elusive; more often, what looks like a nice plus on one hand turns out to be a minus on the other hand.
Take last year's boost in South Dakota's tobacco tax as an example. It was expected to generate more revenue for the state (a good thing) and also may lead some people to quit smoking or chewing tobacco (also a good thing). However, as people decided to ease off smoking or chewing, the projections for tobacco tax revenue slipped. If you were counting on that tax revenue for some funding of a crucial project, that was not really good news.
Anyway, you get the idea.
A recent news item falls into this category.
The Yankton (S.D.) Press & Dakotan reported June 23 that the sharp rise in the conversion of acreage from the Conservation Reserve Program to farmland production may hurt the state's pheasant numbers.
In other words, an increasing number of farmers are pulling their land out of CRP and farming it again because crop prices are high and there is money to be made. Last year, 300,000 acres were reverted back to production, reducing that state's CRP acreage by 20 percent. This will increase farming income, which will be a good thing, economically speaking.
However, pheasant hunting is one of the state's top tourist businesses, contributing more than $219 million to the state's coffers. The hunting of ringnecks has become such an essential part of the state's identity that anything that seriously affects it -- like the loss of vital CRP acreage -- could pose problems.
But the times tend to lead our sensibilities.
Obviously, the farmers can do what they wish with their land; they must make a living, after all. And if so many farmers wish to pull their lands out of CRP to turn it back into crop production, it is certainly their right.
Nevertheless, it is a trend that should cause some concern, and not simply because of how the conversion potentially could affect pheasant numbers and, thus, the hunting economy that is so important to this state. In fact, CRP acreage also is a plus to other wildlife, a factor that should not be overlooked.
A CRP designation also is about protecting the soil, which is another way of saying it protects farmers' capital investments. By limiting erosion, it also protects streams from sedimentation, thus protecting water sources that are also vital to farming operations, not to mention communities and businesses everywhere. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one of the missions of the conservation program is to encourage farmers "to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover." So, if farmers are opting to convert such at-risk land for production purposes, they are exposing such land to the whims of nature's more adverse moods.
So, there is a price to be paid by converting CRP acreage to farm production. While it is entirely within a farmer's right to do this, one hopes he or she knows well that every plus tends to generate a minus, and idled land is not always wasted land, no matter what the market says. Far from it.
-- Yankton (S.D.) Press & Dakotan