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Satellite Study: 23 Million Acres of Grassland Converted to Crops Since 2008

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August 07, 2012

Satellite Study: 23 Million Acres of Grassland Converted to Crops Since 2008

By Chad Love

Sky-high crop prices and unlimited government-subsidized crop insurance have triggered the conversion of a staggering 23 million acres of grassland into row crops since 2008, according to a new study that used satellite data to estimate the loss.

From this story in the Des Moines Register:
Soaring crop prices and access to unlimited insurance led U.S. farmers to convert wildlife habitat into farmland, says a new study from two environmental groups. Farmers converted more than 23 million acres of grassland, shrub land and wetlands between 2008 and 2011 in order to plant more corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops, according to a report released Monday by Environmental Working Group and Defenders of Wildlife.

The report, which used U.S. Agriculture Department satellite data to estimate the rate of conversion, said the influx of wilderness to row crops included more than 8.4 million acres of corn, more than 5.6 million of soybeans and nearly 5.2 million to grow winter wheat. Most of the habitat was in states in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, but some of the highest rates of habitat conversion were in drought-plagued portions of West Texas and Oklahoma.

According to the story, the report found that 11 states had experienced habitat losses of at least one million acres in the past three years, and that habitat losses were greatest in counties that received the largest amounts of federal crop insurance subsidies. According to the group, Farm Bill conservation programs must be fully funded and the federal crop insurance program must be reformed to avert long-term environmental disaster.

Wow. Twenty-three million acres, much of it former CRP ground, much of it highly-erodible or fragile grasslands of questionable crop production value located in states where grass is, quite literally, the only thing holding the soil to the ground. Throw in a persistent, long-term drought in many of those same areas and it's no wonder that many are now beginning to wonder if we're setting ourselves up for a catastrophic repeat of the 1930s.

Thoughts? Reaction? Any plains states readers already seeing the effects of grassland losses, in terms of loss of hunting and fishing opportunities?

Comments (5)

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from labrador12 wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

Just one of the environmental benefits of ethanol. The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Who knew?

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from coachsjike wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

and why are our gas prices so high?

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from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

But now lets tally how many farms and ranches are not in production or reserve but are filled with wonderful hard to heat, air conditioned, huge lawn maintenance and (not so) well made McMansions. Another potential disaster brought to you by your cowardly United States Congress and their lobbyist friends, who never let a good crisis go to waste.

Loss grassland and urban sprawl, bringing you high gas prices, oil company profits that find their way into your favorite 1%' congress weasels pocket to create more laws that benefit the 1%. And lets not forget pollution, loss of hunting habitat and good old global warming. Who needs trees and reasonably priced food. Lets all hide in our AC and play hunting video games.

Thank you Barney Frank and your rich land developer buddies for bringing this future to us,

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from coachsjike wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

the worst part of all this is that NO ONE will admit whats wrong with this country and how to get it back on track...EVER.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hunterandfarmer wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

As a farmer I can see the results of urbanization. I am only 16 and I have seen hundreds of of acres of good pasture and farm ground go under houses. As for CRP in my part of the country most of it did not qualify to be resigned when the contracts ran out, hence the former CRP ground went under plow so landowners could meet expenses. We left almost all of our former CRP as it was so we didn't loose all the topsoil when it floods. We mowed former CRP ground for hay this year and probably got more good out of it that way than we would have with it in crops. Also our cropland is in the creek bottoms and is very expensive to insure because of frequent flooding.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from labrador12 wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

Just one of the environmental benefits of ethanol. The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Who knew?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from coachsjike wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

and why are our gas prices so high?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

But now lets tally how many farms and ranches are not in production or reserve but are filled with wonderful hard to heat, air conditioned, huge lawn maintenance and (not so) well made McMansions. Another potential disaster brought to you by your cowardly United States Congress and their lobbyist friends, who never let a good crisis go to waste.

Loss grassland and urban sprawl, bringing you high gas prices, oil company profits that find their way into your favorite 1%' congress weasels pocket to create more laws that benefit the 1%. And lets not forget pollution, loss of hunting habitat and good old global warming. Who needs trees and reasonably priced food. Lets all hide in our AC and play hunting video games.

Thank you Barney Frank and your rich land developer buddies for bringing this future to us,

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from coachsjike wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

the worst part of all this is that NO ONE will admit whats wrong with this country and how to get it back on track...EVER.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hunterandfarmer wrote 1 year 36 weeks ago

As a farmer I can see the results of urbanization. I am only 16 and I have seen hundreds of of acres of good pasture and farm ground go under houses. As for CRP in my part of the country most of it did not qualify to be resigned when the contracts ran out, hence the former CRP ground went under plow so landowners could meet expenses. We left almost all of our former CRP as it was so we didn't loose all the topsoil when it floods. We mowed former CRP ground for hay this year and probably got more good out of it that way than we would have with it in crops. Also our cropland is in the creek bottoms and is very expensive to insure because of frequent flooding.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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