The Conservation Reserve Project has removed many millions of marginal and sub-marginal lands from agricultural production over the last 20 years or so. It has had an enormous beneficial effect on water quality and wildlife habitat in some places. Southeast Idaho, where I live is one of the most important places to benefit.
On the other hand, the monetary payments to these nonproducing farmers have been enormous. As George Wuerthner has pointed out many times, the land could have purchased and become public land easily for the amount of money paid to the owners who voluntarily sign up for this program.
Another one of the irritating aspects of the program is the tendency for various Administrations, including the current one, to open these lands to grazing where there is a drought, or in the present case, simply high food prices. This pretty much defeats the expensive CRP’s purpose.
Fortunately, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour has just issued and injunction that could stop the renewed grazing on 24 million acres of CRP lands around the U.S.
Story in the Seattle Times. The injunction ordered Tuesday by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour could affect 24 million acres of conservation lands across the country.
And here is some potentially very bad news. Farmers are pressuring to be let out of their CRP contracts because of the artificially high price of corn that has been created by mandates to produce ethanol from corn. USDA Rule Change May Lead To Crops on Conserved Land. By Joel Achenbach. Washington Post.
These lands were taken out of production because they are generally hilly with soils that flow away with the first rain. Corn is one of the very worst crops in terms of erosion. It is plain to see that corn simply cannot hold the soil in place. Add this then as yet another cost of corn ethanol.
Many people are blaming the huge midwest floods on the land use practices in the area, aggrevated by planting of more corn — this is the kind of additional cost we are talking about.