The Conservation Reserve Project has removed many millions of marginal and sub-marginal lands from agricultural production over the last 20 years or so. It has had an enormous beneficial effect on water quality and wildlife habitat in some places. Southeast Idaho, where I live is one of the most important places to benefit.

On the other hand, the monetary payments to these nonproducing farmers have been enormous. As George Wuerthner has pointed out many times, the land could have purchased and become public land easily for the amount of money paid to the owners who voluntarily sign up for this program.

Another one of the irritating aspects of the program is the tendency for various Administrations, including the current one, to open these lands to grazing where there is a drought, or in the present case, simply high food prices. This pretty much defeats the expensive CRP’s purpose.

Fortunately, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour has just issued and injunction that could stop the renewed grazing on 24 million acres of CRP lands around the U.S.

Story in the Seattle Times. The injunction ordered Tuesday by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour could affect 24 million acres of conservation lands across the country.

And here is some potentially very bad news. Farmers are pressuring to be let out of their CRP contracts because of the artificially high price of corn that has been created by mandates to produce ethanol from corn. USDA Rule Change May Lead To Crops on Conserved Land. By Joel Achenbach. Washington Post.

These lands were taken out of production because they are generally hilly with soils that flow away with the first rain. Corn is one of the very worst crops in terms of erosion. It is plain to see that corn simply cannot hold the soil in place. Add this then as yet another cost of corn ethanol.

Many people are blaming the huge midwest floods on the land use practices in the area, aggrevated by planting of more corn — this is the kind of additional cost we are talking about.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

One Response to Judge halts USDA's cattle-grazing plans on Conservation Reserve Program lands

  1. avatar kt says:

    The rancher (Ledgerwood) who is whining so much in the Seattle paper article is the beneficiary of all kinds of public welfare. Ledgerwood gets FREE grazing on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lands near Asotin.

    The state’s democratic Governor, Chris Gregoire, in the misbegotten hope that she can buy a few votes in eastern Washington, over saw signing of an MOU with the Washington Cattlemen’s Assoc’n to throw open key salmon, steelhead, big game and rare plant habitat to FREE grazing. These are lands purchased – often with federal tax dollars like BPA funds, and other sources of federal funding – and are supposed to be managed as habitat for fish and wildlife. Not as a stinking manured weedy cow pasture – which is what the grazing program under the Gov’s MOU is turning them into. Ledgerwood was hand-picked by the Cattlemen to receive FREE grazing here. Just goes to show the most vocal whining ranchers are the worst welfare cases …

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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