The general Conservation Reserve Program sign up is going on now until June 14th. This is a great opportunity to get competitive rates on that land that’s very hard to farm. Habitat loss has been well documented and sure, as a sportsman, I have an interest in the wildlife that needs that habitat for sustainability, but there are a number of other benefits including soil and water quality that impacts us all. We weren’t sure if a Farm Bill was going to get done and thankfully one did and the conservation programs were welcomed. It’s tough to compete with the commodity prices and land rents right now, but the rates that are available this year were worked over tirelessly to make them as competitive as possible. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr offered this today in regards to the CRP Enrollment:
(From the DNR)
Thanks to those who enroll land in CRP
By Tom Landwehr, DNR Commissioner
If you own private land in the agricultural part of the state, the future of wildlife and water quality depends on you.
This is true because grasslands, wetlands and other forms of cover are critical for providing pheasants, ducks and a myriad of nongame species with the nesting sites, food and shelter they need. That cover is found primarily on private lands.
For this reason I offer my sincere thanks to those of you who have enrolled land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). You have been a friend to wildlife, soil, clean water and the Minnesotans who value them. Your efforts are appreciated. Hopefully, others will follow your example before the sign-up closes June 14.
Preserving grassland is one of the great environmental challenges we face. Long ago, tallgrass prairie covered about one-third of Minnesota and totaled some 18 million acres. Today, less than 2 percent remains. What remains is further threatened by the current combination of low interest rates, high corn and soybean prices and ever-increasing yields per acre that make it economically attractive to convert even marginal grassland that was never before deemed tillable.
Since 2007, conversion of idle lands to cropland has been accelerating. In fact, grassland-to-cropland conversions in the Corn Belt have not been this high since the 1920s and 1930s, the era of rapid mechanization of America’s agriculture. The National Agriculture Statistics Service reports that grassland conversion to corn and soybeans (1 to 5.4 percent annually) across a significant portion of the Western Corn Belt is comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Since its beginning in 1985, CRP has contributed to improving Minnesota’s water quality and done more for grassland wildlife than any other conservation program. At one point, there were 1.9 million acres of CRP in Minnesota; today that amount is about 1.4 million acres. Since 2007, however, Minnesota has lost 425,000 acres of CRP. Another 625,000 acres of CRP in the state is scheduled to expire over the next five years. Together, that’s a land mass roughly the size of Rhode Island.
If you are enrolled in CRP please consider re-enrolling. If you have land that could be enrolled, please consider it. You might also consider enrolling your grassland in the Walk-In Access program. This program provides financial incentives for landowners to keep land in CRP by allowing public hunting on that land. Now entering its third year, the walk-in program has expanded to 35 counties in western Minnesota, with a goal of enrolling 25,000 acres. This program has proven successful for both landowners and hunters.
Your local Farm Service Agency office can provide more information on CRP and the Walk-In Access program. At many locations you will meet specialized consultants funded by the Farm Bill Partnership and supported by the Board of Water and Soil Resources, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
So stop by. Ask questions. Get answers. And know that if you do enroll, you will make a positive impact on our environment for years to come, and for that, I – and all Minnesotans – thank you.
Appeals Court upholds DNR rulemaking on wolf season
A court decision issued today by the Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) authority to set wolf seasons. The following is a statement from DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr:
“This decision affirms that the DNR, as directed by the Legislature, set the correct and proper course in establishing last year’s wolf season. Furthermore, the recent Legislature clarified the rulemaking process for setting future seasons, affirming the DNR is using the correct season-setting process.”
The DNR used the same rulemaking process for the wolf season as it does for dozens of other game species. Landwehr said the DNR is committed to the long-term sustainability of the state’s wolf population, the largest in the lower 48 states, and the agency took a conservative approach to the inaugural season.
Plans are underway for a 2013 wolf season. The DNR will set the season this summer after analyzing data from the previous season and a wolf population estimate is completed.
Visit the DNR website www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/wolves/mgmt.html.