What to Do with an Expiring CRP Contract

Published on: Oct. 26, 2009

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Many landowners, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts don't realize the looming deadline. More than 21 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts will expire over the next five years.

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The Conservation Reserve Program has resulted in millions of acres of habitat for upland and wetland wildlife. When managed properly, CRP is the greatest conservation program for wildlife in the United States. Well managed CRP grasslands and buffers provide critical nesting, brooding and sometimes shrubby cover for quail and other wildlife. In fact, some of my best quail and pheasant hunts were on well managed CRP grasslands. Probably some of my most memorable duck hunts were a result of CRP producing ducks.

 

The foundation of our nation’s farmland and outdoor experience is built on diverse, high-quality and abundant natural resources such as productive waters, healthy forests, abundant fish, forests and wildlife and rich soils. Over the last 20 years, CRP has improved soil, water and air quality, wildlife habitat and environmentally sensitive areas like wetlands and bottomland forests. Over the next five years almost half of the nation's CRP will expire, most on marginally productive land (why it was put in CRP in the first place).

Here are the totals by year:

2009: 3,743,685 acres

2010: 4,761,130 acres

2011: 4,421,438 acres

2012: 6,251,814 acres

2013: 3,335,608 acres

The Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa will likely see the biggest decline in CRP grasslands over the next five years. In Missouri almost 1 million acres of 1.4 million acres will expire by October 2013.

It will be interesting to see what happens to pheasant and duck numbers in the Dakotas when this happens. Less habitat will likely mean fewer ducklings, which will mean fewer ducks flying through Missouri in November and December for dedicated hunters.

In Missouri, hunting is big business. Hunting alone, in Missouri, generates more than $147 million in state and local sales tax. Hunting is big business in other states too. Hunters help support the local economy by purchasing hunting leases from farmers, spending the night in local motels, eating at the neighborhood diner and filling their gas tanks at the local gas station. Where will the hunters go when the CRP grasslands disappear?

Significant changes in federal policy and a drop in CRP acres will have a dramatic impact on our nation’s farmland--not only for wildlife, but also for soil, air and water quality. Without a strong

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