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2020Talks - March 31, 2020 


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Groups: Early Withdrawal of CRP Lands Could Leave OH Paying the Penalty

July 16, 2008

Washington, DC - Rising food prices have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thinking about new options to put food on America's tables. The agency is considering allowing property owners, in Ohio and other states, to take lands out of its "Conservation Reserve Program" (CRP) without paying the usual penalty, so crops can be planted.

However, many argue that the costs to the environment may not be worth it. The Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group is one of 15 conservation and agriculture groups that have signed a letter to the government opposing the idea. Ferd Hoefner of the Working Group says in their view, conservation land is already in "active production" -- for the benefit of Ohio's environment. In Ohio, he adds, the program has been very successful.

"A very large proportion of that improvement is due to the Conservation Reserve, because the program has taken land that's highly erosive and put it under grass cover to protect it. Conservation values that have been gained -- for water quality, to stop soil erosion, and create wildlife habitat -- would be lost if it's just, willy-nilly, put back into crop production."

Other groups that signed the letter include the American Farmland Trust, the National Wildlife Federation, the Izaak Walton League of America, and the Sierra Club.

The USDA hopes putting some conservation land back into production would lower some of the high commodity prices that have squeezed livestock producers. As the federal government's biggest conservation program, the CRP pays landowners to retire crop land for environmental reasons, such as protecting wetlands, which helps restore wildlife populations and balance the ecosystem. The agency's decision is expected this week.

Eric Mack/Steve Powers, Public News Service - OH