Speaking to a packed house at Pheasant Fest in Omaha last week, Farm Service Administrator Jonathan Coppess praised the accomplishments of a lengthy and highly successful partnership between Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Pheasants Forever organization — a partnership that revolves around the success of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
How successful is CRP? According to Coppess, since its inception 25 years ago, CRP acres have resulted in an 8 billion ton reduction in soil erosion, restoration of 2 million acres of wetlands and adjacent buffers, vegetative protection of more than 200,000 stream bank buffers, significant increases in upland wildlife numbers which translates to recreational dollars for many rural economies.
Coppess reiterated Secretary Tom Vilsack’s message from the previous day announcing the opening of a general CRP sign-up beginning March 14, 2011. “We need the continued support of proactive organizations such as Pheasant Forever as we move forward with this next [CRP] sign-up,” said Coppess.
According to FSA data, 4.4 million acres of CRP will expire in 2011 — of which, the Agency is optimistic that 4 million acres will be accepted in the upcoming CRP sign-up. “We are counting on Pheasants Forever and our FSA folks in the county offices to insure a successful sign-up,” said Coppess.
During his remarks, Coppess encouraged Pheasant Fest attendees to help dispel the misconception that there is a competition for acres between conservation and production in the agriculture industry. Coppess stressed, “Conservation and production are not separate from one another. On the contrary, they are common efforts for a common good” — a sentiment reinforced by the fact that, for the most part, the most dedicated conservationists are the nation’s farmers and ranchers.
Coppess closed by reading a statement by President Obama issued on Dec. 23, 2010, in which the President proclaimed his administration’s continued support for CRP and the program’s contributions to enhancing the nation’s environment and economy.