Economy Digging Into CRP

Posted at: 06/26/2013 5:46 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's a classic case of "bad timing".

Just in time for an unusually wet spring, some landowners are leaving a program designed to help control high water.

And they might not be the last.

"The Conservation Reserve Program started in the mid 80's as a set-aside program," said Justin Hanson at the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District office.

“CRP is kind of meant for Ag lands that maybe are more susceptible to erosion," added Adam Arndt, NRCS soil conservation technician.

“They trap a lot of the sediment that's coming through the landscape, but they also slow the water down considerably," Justin Hanson told us.

“Act as a storage basin, say for excess runoff," Adam Arndt added.

Not long ago, landowners were jumping to get in

"10-15 years ago we had a huge up-tick in CRP enrollment,” the SCWD's Justin Hanson said.

But the economy has changed a lot since then.

"We're seeing higher commodity prices, the higher land prices themselves, rent prices," Adam Arndt explained.

“Folks when they enrolled back then were being paid something like a hundred, maybe a hundred twenty dollars an acre, and now rent is at least twice that," Justin Hanson added.

“It's getting harder for CRP to compete with that," said soil conservation technician Adam Arndt

So as CRP contracts are coming due, many landowners are leaving the program ... just in time for one of the wettest springs on record.

"The timing we got all this rain was the absolute worst," said the SWCDs Justin Hanson.

“The spring time is typically the most vulnerable time for erosion because the fields are depleted of residue," Adam Arndt continued.

And there is an impact: "What we're seeing is a lot of dirt coming off the fields is winding up in our streams," Justin Hanson told us.

So the challenge now is keeping those acres that are already enrolled ... and adding new ones.

"That's kind of part of our job is to sell these conservation practices to get land owners interested," said Adam Arndt.

“We can't afford to lose any of it,” Justin Hanson added. “And we are."