DU: Prairie Pothole CRP losses add up
BISMARCK, N.D. - Ducks Unlimited cautions that the Duck Factory is on the verge of losing even more of its capacity. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Conservation Reserve Program contracts on more than 500,000 acres expired and were not renewed in the Prairie Pothole Region states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana in 2009. That means another one-half million acres of grass that will be turned back into cropland and no longer available as nesting habitat for ducks. It also means one-half million acres of grass that are no longer available as an occasional forage source for ranchers.
"The cumulative impacts of grassland loss in the Prairie Pothole Region, both CRP and native prairie, at this magnitude, will eventually have significant impacts on waterfowl populations and the number of ducks that hunters see in their decoy spreads," said Scott McLeod, DU government affairs representative.
This fall's losses of CRP grassland are in addition to the more than 960,000 acres lost in the Dakotas and Montana in 2007 and 335,000 acres lost in 2008. Nearly 70 percent of the acres that have expired in the Dakotas and Montana since 2007 have been in the Prairie Pothole Region, and during the next three years, another 3.4 million acres will expire in the Dakotas and Montana.
South Dakota has slipped from 1.8 million acres of CRP down to 1.07 million acres since 2007. McLeod says the acreage total will fall to the 600,000 to 650,000 range by 2012. Likewise, North Dakota has slipped from 3.4 million acres in 2007 to 2.7 million acres and will drop to 1.2 million acres by 2012.
"In 2012 alone, North Dakota will lose more than 846,000 acres of CRP," said McLeod.
Nationwide, some 2.7 million acres of CRP, freed from contracts, are already being converted into farmland. Enough acres exited the program this year to fall below the nationwide enrollment cap, which was reduced from 39.2 million acres to 32 million acres in the 2008 farm bill.
To get below 32 million acres by October 1, 2010, as mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill, USDA offered three or five year contract extensions and 70 percent of the producers accepted. "However, the result was still a significant loss of CRP nationwide and in the Dakotas and Montana," said McLeod.
USDA is currently in the process of conducting a CRP Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected to be completed sometime during the fall of 2010. A general CRP sign-up cannot be held until the impact statement is completed.
(Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved nearly 13 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.)