USDA Conservation Reserve Program Initiative Praised by Conservation Group

March 2, 2012
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Contact: Sean Crowley, 202-550-6524-c

(Washington, DC — March 2, 2012) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s announcement today to offer producers the option to preserve grasslands, wetlands and wildlife habitat by enrolling a total of 1 million acres of land in a new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative. USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers CRP, will set aside the million acres within the 32-million acre program for specific enrollments that benefit duck nesting habitat, upland birds, wetlands, pollinators and wildlife.

“Secretary Vilsack’s conservation reserve program initiative is a win-win for farmers, sportsmen, the environment and the economy,” said Sara Hopper, EDF’s agricultural policy director and a former staff member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This announcement comes at a critical time because more than 6 million acres currently protected under CRP contracts are set to expire this year. Much of this land is concentrated in important places, like the Great Plains Prairie Pothole Region (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, northwest Iowa and northeast Montana) that serves as America’s waterfowl factory.”

Hunters and anglers spend more than $85 billion pursuing their passions every year and wildlife watchers spend roughly $50 billion each year, according to Ducks Unlimited. CRP contributed to a net increase of about 2 million additional ducks per year (30 percent increase in duck production) since 1992 in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Northeastern Montana, according to researchers from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

“More than 1 million acres of CRP are expiring this year in North Dakota and South Dakota alone, which could have devastating impacts on waterfowl populations, as well as potentially worsening water quality and increasing the severity of flooding,” said Terry Noto, an environmental lawyer and CRP expert who consults for EDF.  “With this initiative, producers can continue to protect these vital wetland and grassland complexes in the Dakotas, as well as expand high priority wetland and wildlife enrollments in other states.”

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