USDA Secretary Announces Plans for new Conservation Reserve Program Sign-Ups

--Chad Love

Upland bird and waterfowl hunters concerned about the impact of high commodity prices and ethanol production on the future of gamebird populations got a bit of good news last week as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an additional sign-up period for the much-heralded Conservation Reserve Program.

From this story on the Pheasants Forever website:
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans for a new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general signup. The last two CRP general signups have been announced by the Secretary in conjunction with Pheasants Forever's signature event. The Secretary acknowledged Pheasant Fest as a fitting place to celebrate CRP during the program's 25th year and remarked on CRP's importance to farmers, ranchers, wildlife, hunters and everyone concerned about America's soils and water quality. He said the 2011 CRP general signup would occur from March 14 to April 15 targeting up to 4 million acres for acceptance. The Secretary reiterated the importance of keeping CRP near its 32 million acre cap (approximately 31 million acres are currently enrolled).
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_"Over the past 25 years, support for CRP has grown thanks to strong backing from partners like Pheasants Forever, farmers, ranchers, conservationists, hunters, fishermen and other outdoor sports enthusiasts," said Vilsack. "Not only has CRP contributed to the national effort to improve water and air quality, it has preserved habitat for wildlife, and prevented soil erosion by protecting the most sensitive areas including those prone to flash flooding and runoff. Today's announcement continues the Obama Administration's effort to conserve sensitive areas and improve wildlife habitat."

In many parts of the plains states, CRP ground is literally the only cover available to wildlife, including pheasants, quail, and other gamebirds. How many of you rely on CRP ground for some of all of your bird hunting?