In the constantly evolving field of agriculture, it can be hard to keep up with all all the seed technology, improving equipment, new techniques, changing regulations and different cultures that exist today. While things seem to be rapidly changing, one thing that has held constant is the need for good land and healthy soil. The Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP is a valuable tool that can be utilized to improve the quality of the land in sensitive areas and improve soil health. Dedicating portions of one’s property to CRP will have benefits that will last for many years.
The Conservation Reserve Program is a government program introduced in 1985 designed to help conserve our soils, to avoid agricultural disasters like the Dust Bowl that crippled the United States in the 1930’s. The Conservation Reserve Program allows farmers to remove parts of their property from agricultural production for a designated period of time (usually 10 years) to restore the soil health. While the property is out of production, the farmer will receive annual rent payments as compensation. This can be especially attractive to today’s farmers as they face extremely low corn prices. With that said, there are limits to how many acres of one’s land can be on CRP with the county limit set at 25%. As the CRP land returns to its natural state, it has many environmental and ecological impacts.
Maintaining the physical, biological and chemical components of soil can be a difficult task for any farmer, even with the help of soil professionals. Converting land to CRP will restore soil health by increasing biodiversity. Decades or even centuries of mono-culture farming can really take its toll on the soil. Restoring the soil to a natural, more biologically diverse environment will rejuvenate the soil by establishing a proper balance that we find in undisturbed soil.
In recent years agriculture production’s environmental impacts have been a focus of public attention. The effects that production has on water systems is arguably the largest concern in the eyes of the general public. CRP along waterways, especially adjacent to production areas, can keep soil and a large portion of what is within the soil from ending up in lakes and rivers. In general CRP property is covered in very dense grasses, which act as a natural filter or a buffer for any water that is draining from the production areas. This filter helps minimize soil erosion which keeps the production areas healthier, but it also helps keep major waterways from being polluted by any runoff.
The Conservation Reserve Program is also a very effective tool for improving or sustaining land for all kinds of wildlife. These natural environments can become a haven for everything from insects to large mammals like deer. CRP property becomes a haven for wildlife to flourish as the area remains untouched by man for an extended period of time. This also creates opportunity for sportsmen to enjoy hunting on the renewed property.
The Conservation Reserve Program continues to prove itself as one of our government’s great success stories. The program is a viable option for farmers to help take care of the land that they care about, without losing large amounts of income. CRP improves soil health, water quality, and wildlife protection without requiring much input from the farmer. Programs like CRP are important for ensuring that future generations enjoy the fertile soil and productive lands that today’s farmers and their families have enjoyed for generations.
My name is Mick Nelson and I am currently a senior majoring in Agriculture Business at Western Illinois University. I am from Saint Paul, Minnesota and hope to move back there when I finish my education. I am also involved in athletics at WIU going into my final season of NCAA Division I football next Fall. I hope to continue my education at WIU by enrolling in the MBA program before finding a career in agriculture sales.