The Lincoln Journal Star reported on the impact of rising grain prices on the enrollment of land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Art Hovey spoke with Nebraska farmer, Ron Morrison, about his decision to put expiring CRP land into crop production. Click here to read the full article.

“No doubt about it,” he said. “It’s the crop prices that are a definite incentive to raising corn, rather than CRP.”

There is, though, that other side. “Number one, we will definitely not see as many deer bounding across the CRP, or all the pheasants.”

Dan Steinkruger, Nebraska State Director of the Farm Service Agency, addressed concerns about soil erosion and possible solutions to help ensure that land placed back into crop production does not suffer.

Steinkruger also acknowledges concern about another kind of erosion — an eroding in the amount of land that has been held out of production, in some cases for decades — because it met the criteria for being vulnerable to being washed away or blown away.

“I think, as a conservationist, it is a concern,” he said. “I think that it’s important — and I know (USDA) Secretary Vilsack understands this — that the department will continue to operate the program so that we get the most benefit from those acres that remain in the Conservation Reserve Program.”

He envisions “more of a targeted need than 20 years ago, when it was built basically as a land diversion program.”

This raises important issues for non-operator landowners and farmers alike. Landowners may also be tempted to lease expiring CRP land to take advantage of higher rental rates. If the land is placed into crop production, it is important to consider how the land will be farmed and to address concerns in the lease agreement. Morrison expressed the need for farmers and landowners to pay particular attention to conservation practices for land brought out of the Conservation Program.

Lancaster County landowner Morrison said better farming methods are one reason why he feels comfortable about putting acres back in production.

Earlier, “we saved a lot of soil by putting our land in the CRP, because we were farming with the old methods. You plowed it, you tilled it, you disked it several times and a lot of soil went down the gullies.”

No till, minimum till, terracing and grassed waterways are ways to grow crops with erosion held in check, he said.

“Hopefully, most of the people who will take it do have a plan to continue to take care of the land in the proper way.”

The practices mentioned in this article can be required by the provisions of a lease agreement. It is important to also recognize the possible need for incentives and cost-sharing with the farm operator in order to make necessary conservation improvements. These matters, and others, are addressed in the resources in the Landowner’s Toolbox.