advertisement

Farmers Come to Forefront of Conservation

At first glance, one would think that the Midwest, home to so much farmland, would naturally be in the forefront of “green” initiatives. After all, that farmland is producing a major share of the nation’s food. And the farmers who own that land are surely setting the best examples of how to be green – because that is what their life work is all about.

But the truth of the matter is this: Farmers who own several hundred acres of property may be using only a portion of that land to produce agricultural commodities. Some may be using a great portion of their land for production, but not doing it in a way that preserves or protects nature.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stepped in with federal programs that provide incentives for working farms to also be working to conserve by introducing the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP is a voluntary program for agricultural landowners, which provides annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible farmland.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency reports that CRP protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion, thus keeping the nation’s natural resources safe. By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted with resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country.

Another facet of the program is called the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which is a voluntary land retirement program that helps farmers protect environmentally sensitive land, decrease erosion, restore wildlife habitat, and safeguard ground and surface water. CREP tends to be a community-based effort under local leadership that addresses local and national conservation issues – impacts to water supplies, loss of critical habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife species, soil erosion, and reduced habitat for fish populations such as salmon.

As an example of these federal programs in action, the Illinois Farm Bureau reported that a Peoria County farmer has 320 of his 700 acres devoted to soil and water protection, animal habitat, and prairie conservation. This farm is a showcase for visitors, providing an education in viewing prairie grasses, wildflowers, woodlands and wetlands. The farm also features a system of dams, terraces, waterways and grass filter strips that capture potential pollutants from water before they reach streams or rivers.

As more farmers understand that CRP reimburses those who remove environmentally sensitive cropland from production and foster wildlife habitat, more farms will become living “classrooms” for conservation and the protection of our planet.


advertisement


advertisement
Recent Comments
    Archives

    advertisement

    advertisement