“I think helping quail is just what is right for my farm,” said Cass County farmer Jim Riffle. “After all these years of farming, it’s time I give them a little back.”
It’s no secret quail need help. Nationwide, northern bobwhite numbers have dropped from an estimated 59 million birds in 1980 to 20 million birds in 1999 and have continued to decline. Most experts say habitat loss is the reason we don’t have as many quail as we once did. Other upland species, including many songbirds, with similar habitat requirements also are suffering.
Private landowners are the key to increasing upland species, and the new CP33 practice of the Conservation Reserve Program allows farmers to reap financial benefits for helping quail and other upland species. Giving a little back to quail can now pay off big.
What is CP33?
CP33 is one of 27 Farm Service Agency Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practicesoffered to agricultural landowners throughoutMissouri. The CRP pays landowners on a per-acrebasis over the length of a 10- to 15-year contract to retire cropland and marginal pasture for resource conservation. Missouri is one of six states given an enrollment allocation of 20,000 acres to enroll under CP33. The federal Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers CP33, which is titled “Habitat Buffers For Upland Birds.”
The primary purpose of CP33 is to provide buffers around field edges adjacent to cropped areas.
CP33 requires that buffers be from 30 to 120 feet wide. The buffers can be allowed to regrow to natural cover or can be planted with a mixture of warm season grasses and forbs. Disking, burning or chemical application can be used midway through the contract to enhance the habitat cover. Edge feathering of nearby trees and shrub plantings also enhances the habitat by providing cover.
Missouri studies have shown that quail are normally found within 70 feet of shrubby cover. CP33 buffers, which contain a combination of grasses, natural cover and shrubs, benefit quail by providing food, nesting habitat and protection from predators and harsh weather.
How You Can Profit
The cost of establishing buffers is minimal. CP33 provides cost-share dollars to cover up to 90 percent of the expense of establishing the cover. Then, you reap rewards throughout the length of the contract.
If, for example, you installed a 120-foot buffer around a 40-acre field, you would be creating 13.2 acres of buffer. With an approximate contract value of $80 per acre, you would be paid $10,560 over