Written collaboratively by Pete Bauman and Mark Norton (S.D. Game Fish & Parks).
About Conservation Reserve Programs (CRP)
The history of federal involvement in soil preservation dates back to dust bowl era of the 1930’s with the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act. This was the first in a long series of ‘Farm Bills’ that continue to guide our soil and water conservation strategies today. Currently, one of the most popular soil conservation programs is the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP as it is commonly known. CRP is cooperatively administered under the US Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
With the 2017 Farm Bill will likely come new options in conservation programs. It is likely that CRP will continue to be a major part of the conservation programs in the farm bill, and it is likely that some form of CRP grazing program may be an option. Here we discuss factors that will influence CRP or any other grassland planting in relation to its function for wildlife and potential for livestock either during or after the CRP contract expires.
Grassland Planting Considerations
The greatest single factor that producers can influence when considering CRP or other grass plantings is the type of cover they plant. More diverse plantings that include forbs are ranked highest in the evaluation process and are great options for future grazing projects. For example, the CP25 mix for ‘rare and declining habitat’ consists of 8 grass species and 7 forbs/legumes. The key is selecting the right suite of species to match wildlife goals or for a future grazing plan. Planting native legumes like purple and white prairie clover, Canada milkvetch and Illinois bundleflower will meet the conservation requirements by providing excellent wildlife habitat while enhancing future forage value for grazing.
Questions on CRP and other conservation programs can be directed to any USDA service center. In addition, Pheasants Forever Employs 9 Farm Bill Biologists servicing 28 Counties in South Dakota. These persons work directly with USDA and other agencies to enroll landowners in conservation programs that fit their unique situations. For more information, view a listing of Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists in South Dakota.
South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks private lands staff are also charged with assisting landowners in designing and implementing conservation projects. These staff are located in Huron, Pierre, and Rapid City SD GF&P offices.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service also performs extensive work on private lands in South Dakota through the Partners For Fish and Wildlife Program, with staff located at the state office in Brookings and at USFWS offices and refuges across the state.
Finally, SDSU Extension Range and Conservation staff are often involved in connecting producers interested in grazing and wildlife conservation programs.