October 24, 2012
Farmland Prices Soar, Making CRP Less Competitive
By Bob Marshall
A news story about the increasing cost of farmland caught my attention this morning, while contemplating the fate of conservation programs once election day is over. It isn't good news.
Every dollar increase in farmland prices makes CRP and other vital wildlife conservation easement programs less competitive, which means the public will have to pay more to convince farmers to take acres out of crop production.
Worse, this story pointed out farmland prices continue to soar even in the face of a disastrous drought, because financial speculators consider farm commodities a better value than the stock market: "Across the nation’s Corn Belt, even as the worst drought in more than 50 years has destroyed what was expected to be a record corn crop and reduced yields to their lowest level in 17 years, farmland prices have continued to rise. From Nebraska to Illinois, farmers seeking more land to plant and outside investors looking for a better long-term investment than stocks and bonds continue to buy farmland, taking advantage of low interest rates."
Indeed, some financial experts say the squeeze global warming will be putting on food production will make even marginally productive acres even more valuable in years to come.
This is happening at the same time many GOP members of Congress are pushing to slash funding for conservation programs. Of course, Congress doesn't reach a budget compromise after the election and reach the "fiscal cliff" of sequestration, the damage to conservation spending will be severe.
It's important for sportsmen to remember that--especially in the eastern half of the nation--private land management has an enormous impact on fish and wildlife production and, hence, hunting and fishing.