USDA Secretary Vilsack Targets Improvements to CRP
Last Saturday evening before a sold-out crowd at the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic banquet in Kansas City, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in a video message that the USDA will soon be rolling out important news about the Conservation Reserve Program. In addition to the upcoming general CRP signup announced earlier this month, the USDA intends to specifically target very environmentally sensitive and highly erodible lands in an effort to encourage their enrollment as part of the ongoing continuous CRP.
This should be welcome news to bird hunters everywhere as we’ve watched massive declines in CRP acreage, especially throughout the northern Great Plains states. Hopefully, this is the first in several actions desperately needed to shore up a struggling Conservation Reserve Program; the result of record land and commodity prices.
In addition to this latest USDA announcement, Pheasants Forever is calling on the USDA for the following actions:
- Updated and more competitive CRP soil rentals rates.
- Reallocations of wildlife-focused CRP practices like CP-33’s for quail, CP-37’s for waterfowl, and CP-38’s for pheasants and other critters. In other words, reallocations move un-enrolled acres to states that have maxed out their current allotment.
- New pollinator provisions concurrently strengthen CRP’s wildlife and farm economy benefits. Pheasants and quail share a common need for habitat featuring a diverse forb (flowering plant) component with pollinating insects like honey bees, butterflies, beetles, and bats. Following a pheasant or quail nest’s hatch, young chicks survive almost exclusively on a diet of insects. These insects critical to a gamebird’s life cycle are also dependent upon a diverse mix of forbs. Likewise, these flowering plants create fantastic brood cover allowing chicks to move through habitat at ground level, while having protection from avian predators in the sky.
Mother Nature has been helping upland wildlife with a mild winter thus far, but unless we shore up the critical habitat the CRP provides, it will continue to disappear from the landscape and our favorite birds’ futures will continue to look grim indeed.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.
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