An older friend of my owns a farm in rural Wisconsin. I know area well. The landscape is stunning, truly breathtaking. We were talking about her farm the other day. She was lamenting about that damn CRP turning all this beautiful farmland into mosquito factories. Her father had homesteaded the land. She said he must be turning in his grave to see the hard work of others wasted.
I had to quiet myself. Having been in conservation most of life, I’ve spent hours restoring prairies plowed over, wetlands drained and destroyed. I had seen first hand the effects of the lack of proper land management, of prairies taken over by non-native grasses, forests blanketed by garlic mustard, wetlands overrun by purple loosestrife. I applauded programs like CRP, The federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) — which pays landowners to idle marginal cropland and help restore habitat, benefit wildlife, and clean waterways. Because of programs like CRP, populations of waterfowl are growing. While that may not be a direct benefit to the guy on the street, the reduced risk of flooding is. Ironically, the same area where my friend’s farm is located experienced some of the worse flooding in decades this past summer. Who’s to say, but perhaps that flooding wasn’t worse because of CRP.
The problem today is that with soaring land values and prices for ethanol, farmers are facing tough choices. CRP can’t pay what they can get farming these resources. CRP needs to be brought up to date with the needs of the farmers enrolled in the program.
Today, less than one percent of the native prairie remains in Minnesota. Less than 10 percent of native wetlands remain. By practicing sound conservation with programs like CRP, we protect not only wildlife, we protect our air and water. I believe Will Rogers once said, “Land is a good investment; they’re not making anymore of it.” Let’s protect what we have.