U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced that a new Conservation Reserve Program, CP33, has been put into place to encourage the further development of ground-nesting bird habitat on established irrigated farmlands. This new program will focus on the corners of center-pivot irrigation systems which have historically been ineligible for CRP, as these acres were not connected with a linear strip of grassland. The purpose of this program is to convert pivot corners into grass buffers, in turn creating greater habitat for upland birds and other species. The goal of this program is to create up to 500,000 acres of habitat for dependent birds, such as quail, mourning dove, wild turkey, meadowlarks, bobolinks, and several sparrow species. The creation of this new program will help in the establishment of nesting and brood-rearing habitat, in turn leading to an approximate increase of bobwhite quail by over 1 million birds annually. Not only will this program hope to increase the bobwhite quail population but it will also benefit reptiles, amphibians, and other upland birds; some of which are under consideration for the endagered species list. Although this program is focused on increasing multiple wildlife habitats, it will also be beneficial to the field profile as well. By moving these corners into grasses it will help reduce soil erosion from wind and rain, increase soil/water quality, as well as improving the ecosystem of the farmland. The new program will include the establishment of native warm-season grasses, forbs, legumes, and wildflowers, as well as shrubs and tree species.
But what does this new program mean to landowners who enroll? This program provieds landowners the opportunity to move their costly corners into a source of income. Input costs for maintaining corners in regards to weed control, seed, fertilizer, etc will be replaced by establishing native grasses; of which 90% of the cost of grass establishment will be paid by the USDA. After establishment an annual per acre payment will be paid to the landowner, this varies from county to county. Therefore, these once uproductive, costly corners can now become profitable!
For more information on the new CP33 Program check out the FSA link below.