Thursday, September 10, 2009

Save The CRP

If you're not a farmer or hunter, then chances are you've never heard of the Conservation Reserve Program, better known as CRP. It its essence, it's a USDA program that incentivizes farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally vulnerable acreage to grassland, trees, filter strips, or bottomland buffers. For more than 20 years, this program has been a major force in reducing soil erosion, enhancing water supplies, improving water quality, mitigating flood control, and increasing wildlife habitat of all varieties.

In my estimation, it's a poster child for how government and the private sector ought to work. But today, the program is in jeopardy. According to Pheasants Forever, over 4.2 million acres have expired, and over the next five years, another 21 million more acres are slated to expire. The reasons for this exodus from CRP are varied, but an increase in grain prices (thanks in part to increased ethanol demand) is certainly a significant culprit.

Although CRP was reauthorized in the current farm bill, its success will depend on the rules for implementation. As it stands, there is no provision for a new CRP general signup to re-enroll or replace acres that have expired. Without allowing for new enrollment, we'll continue to lose these vital acres. Of course, someone -- the taxpayer -- has to pay to put these new acres into CRP. But this is an investment in the future.

I've never been accused of being a tax-and-spend liberal, but the CRP program is almost universally hailed as a success. If you've ever walked a section of CRP, the quality of land and wildlife diversity is self-evident. Whether you're a hunter, conservationist, or environmentalist, this is one program we can all get behind. To weigh in on the issue, contact your Congressman, email, or click here to read more.

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