Tag Archives: Conservation Reserve Program

Pollinator Habitat Incentives with CRP

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For Immediate Release
August 2, 2010

CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM OFFERS POLLINATOR HABITAT INCENTIVES

New rules passed by the USDA now offer financial incentives for the establishment of pollinator habitat through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The limited time program sign-up, which opens today to new enrollment, provides one of the largest pollinator conservation opportunities ever in the United States.

The CRP program, first established in 1985, is the largest private landowner conservation effort in the United States with up to 32 million acres eligible for enrollment through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Program participants take highly erodible land out of crop production, and establish permanent vegetation to protect topsoil and provide wildlife cover. Contracts which run 10 to 15 years provide annual rental payments on enrolled land, and cost-share assistance for establishing vegetative cover.

New rules which go into effect today offer priority ranking for land enrollment that include pollinator-friendly wildflowers and shrubs. Under the current CRP enrollment system, landowners who want to participate are ranked against one another to prioritize enrollment that offer the most conservation benefits. To receive a higher score on the pollinator ranking criteria, participating farmers must plant at least 10% of the CRP acres in wildflower parcels (or at least one acre for CRP enrollment less than 10 acres in size).

The addition of a pollinator habitat incentive for CRP has been promoted by numerous wildlife and pollinator conservation groups in recent years, and the new ranking system now offers one of the largest potential habitat creation opportunities of its kind ever for native bees, butterflies, and managed honey bees, all of which have experienced significant decline in recent years due to habitat loss and other factors.

In developing the new CRP technical requirements, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) worked closely with Dr. Marla Spivak, a leading honey bee researcher based at the University of Minnesota, and the California-based advocacy group, Partners for Sustainable Pollination. Now, as the enrollment period for new CRP contracts begins, the NRCS is working with the non-profit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to develop wildflower seeding recommendations for states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Oregon. Those recommendations will focus on selecting native wildflower species that are abundant pollen and nectar sources, and that are most likely to thrive in their respective regions.

Rural landowners interested in more information about CRP, including the current sign-up period which ends August 27th, should contact their local Farm Service Agency office. For location information, visit their web site at http://www.fsa.usda.gov <http://www.fsa.usda.gov/>  .


Iowa Insects Mailing List
IOWA-INSECTS@LIST.UIOWA.EDU <mailto:IOWA-INSECTS@LIST.UIOWA.EDU>
http://atmos.cgrer.uiowa.edu/herbarium/MailingList.htm <http://atmos.cgrer.uiowa.edu/herbarium/MailingList.htm>

The Iowa Insects Mailing List provides a forum for those interested in Iowa’s insects and,
more generally, invertebrates, their identification and ecology. Its purpose is to encourage
novices who are trying to expand their knowledge about the incredible world of insects.
Another objective is to support the Iowa Native Plant Society.

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CRP Acres To Benefit Bobwhite Quail and Other Upland Birds

This is a joint news release from the DNR and the USDA.

IOWA RECEIVES AN ADDITIONAL 10,500 CRP ACRES TO BENEFIT BOBWHITE QUAIL AND OTHER UPLAND BIRDS

MEDIA CONTACTS: For more information, contact Vickie Friedow, FSA, at (515) 254-1540 ext 440; Todd Bogenschutz, DNR, at (515) 432-2823; or Mark Lindflott , NRCS, at (515) 284-4370.

DES MOINES – Iowa producers can enroll up to 10,500 additional acres of cropland into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to benefit upland game birds and other small birds.

“The program is designed to provide much needed habitat and brood rearing areas for quail, pheasant and songbirds in the state,” said Todd Bogenschutz, a wildlife biologist with the DNR. “At the same time, set aside programs protect the most vulnerable land from soil erosion and improve water quality for everyone.”

The additional acres were announced by the U.S.D.A. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the national Pheasant Fest in March. Producers can sign up at any time at their local U.S.D.A. Farm Service Agency. However, the sign up is “first-come, first-served,” according to Vickie Friedow, of the Farm Service Agency’s conservation and compliance department. “With a limited number of acres available, I would encourage anyone who is interested to contact their local U.S.D.A. office as soon as possible” she added.

Eligible areas include cropland and cropland around the edges of existing grain fields. The average width of the enrolled area must be between 30 and 120 feet wide. At least half of the field must be in crops. To be eligible, the land must have been cropped or considered cropped for four of the six years from 1996 to 2001.

Producers will not be able to enroll land that is used for turn rows, roads, or for storage of crops or equipment. In addition, cropland adjacent to a stream filter or buffer strip is not eligible.

Annual payments will be based on the average rental rates for the county. A combination of cost-share and incentive programs will pay up to 90 percent of the cost of establishing the field border. A sign-up bonus of $100 per acre is available. Contracts run for 10 years.  Enrolled areas must be seeded to a combination of native plants including at least four grass species and a combination of at least five wildflowers and legumes.

For technical assistance, landowners can contact their local U.S.D.A. Service Center (http://www.fsa.usda.gov/ia/) or their local DNR or Pheasants Forever private lands biologists (http://www.iowadnr.gov/wildlife/privatelands/index.html).

Producers can contact their local U.S.D.A. Office for more information

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In Search of Wildlife-friendly Biofuels: Are Native Prairie Plants the Answer?

October 1, 2009—

When society jumps on a bandwagon, even for a good cause, there may be unintended consequences.  The unintended consequence of crop-based biofuels may be the loss of wildlife habitat, particularly that of the birds who call this country’s grasslands home, say researchers from Michigan Technological University, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Minnesota and elsewhere.

In a paper published in the October 2009 issue of the journal BioScience, David Flaspohler, Joseph Fargione and colleagues analyze the impacts on wildlife of the burgeoning conversion of grasslands to corn. They conclude that the ongoing conversion of grasslands to corn for ethanol production is posing a very real threat to the wildlife whose habitat is being transformed. One potential solution: Use diverse native prairie plants to produce bioenergy instead of a single agricultural crop like corn.

“There are ways to grow biofuel that are more benign,” said Flaspohler, an associate professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech. “Our advice would be to think broadly and holistically about the approach you use to solve a problem and to carefully consider its potential long-term impacts.”

The rapidly growing demand for corn ethanol, fueled by a government mandate to produce 136 billion liters of biofuel by 2022—more than 740 percent more than was produced in 2006—and federal subsidies to farmers to grow corn, is causing a land-use change on a scale not seen since virgin prairies were plowed and enormous swaths of the country’s forests were first cut down to grow food crops, the researchers say.

“Bioenergy is the most land-intensive way to produce energy, so we need to consider the land use implications of our energy policies,” said Fargione, lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy’s North America Region.

Whether land used to grow corn for ethanol causes a loss of wildlife habitat depends on the type of land use it replaces. Most of the recent expansion in land planted to corn involves land previously used to grow other crops. But there is evidence that more and more land that had been enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is also being converted to crop production.

CRP is a voluntary program that pays rent to landowners to convert their agricultural land to natural grasslands or tree cover, reducing soil erosion, improving water quality and benefiting wildlife. In September 2007, the amount of land enrolled in the CRP peaked at 36.8 million acres.. Just one month later, in October 2007, CRP lands had declined by 2.3 million acres. And the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 capped CRP land at 32 million acres by 2010.

CRP land has been shown to help native birds survive and thrive. CRP lands have added an estimated 2.1 million ducks annually to the fall flight over North America’s prairies. On the other hand, converting CRP land to cropland threatens the grassland birds and mammals there, Flaspohler and Fargione’s paper says. A study of the value of CRP land to grassland birds in North and South Dakota indicated that nearly two million birds of five species would be lost without the CRP in those two states.

Conversion of grassland to corn also has a potentially significant negative impact on freshwater ecosystems. Intact grasslands retain soil and nitrogen. Land planted continuously to corn releases significant amounts of nitrates to freshwater systems. When these nitrogen-laden waters real the Gulf of Mexico, they contribute to algal blooms, creating “dead zones” where low oxygen levels make it difficult for fish and other aquatic wildlife to survive. Soil draining off cropland increases sediment in fresh water, raising temperatures and degrading the habitat of fish such as trout.

What’s the solution?  There are at least two ways to produce bioenergy without destroying wildlife, habitat,  the researchers say. One is to use biomass sources that don’t require additional land, such as agricultural residues and other wastes from municipal, animal, food and forestry industries.

Another is to grow native perennials such as switchgrass and big bluestem. The natural diversity of prairie plants offers many benefits, including increased carbon storage in the soil, erosion control and the maintenance of insect diversity, which does double duty by providing food for birds and helping to pollinate nearby crops.

“Bioenergy can be produced in ways that provide multiple benefits to society, including energy production, carbon sequestration and wildlife habitat,” Fargione said. “The Conservancy is working to implement on-the-ground demonstrations of grass-based energy systems that would increase the economic value of grasslands and provide an incentive for maintaining and extending grassland habitat.”

One concern about using native prairie plants as bioenergy crops is a lower yield per acre planted. However, said Flaspohler, he and fellow Michigan Tech associate professor Chris Webster have collected plant productivity data from12 test fields in southern Wisconsin that should shed light on how field level plant species diversity affects the amount of biomass produced per year. Flaspohler and Webster’s work is partially supported by National Science Foundation funding.

“We are looking at trade-offs between producing a commodity for use as bioenergy and maintaining important ecosystem services such as soil fertility, water quality, and wildlife habitat,” Flaspohler noted. “It was by ignoring unintended consequences that we’ve now found ourselves highly dependent on a non-renewable fuel source (fossil fuels) that is contributing to climate change.  With some foresight and with information on key trade-offs, I think we can make wiser decisions in the future. “

Michigan Technological University (mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.

906-487-4521,

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