About the Author

  • Bob Marshall is an avid outdoorsman, conservation editor at large for Field & Stream, and the winner of two Pulizter Prizes for his work at The New Orleans Times-Picayune, where his reporting on outdoors sports and the issues that affect sportsmen have taken him across the globe.

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« When Corn Kills Ducks | Main | We Bleed Green (See ... From That Hole In Our Foot, Right There!) »

March 02, 2007

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CRP in Peril

The Conservation Reserve Program issue has rapidly moved from a controversy to a crisis that demands the action of every sportsman.

A week ago the outdoors community was rocked by news that energy policy and pressure from the commodity markets had prompted President Bush to consider reneging on his months-old promise to protect and expand the CRP acreage. His support for increased ethanol production had helped double the price of corn in a year’s time, and the agriculture industry – as well as investors in ethanol plants – wanted current CRP contracts dissolved, and a freeze on future contracts.

But what the conservation community originally thought would be just another sparring match to protect the most successful fish and wildlife conservation program in history, now appears to be a long uphill battle – with the odds stacked against them.

What we have here is the perfect storm for CRP: Commodity markets have rapidly out-bid CRP subsidies at the same time Congress is in a pitched political battle to reduce the overall budget. So ducks, pheasant and deer are not only in competition with the price of corn, but with scarce federal dollars for worthy projects such as school lunch programs, armor for troops in Iraq, student loans – not to mention the traditional billions in pork.

CRP is worth fighting for because this is one of those sportsmen-friendly measures that help the nation by creating a much healthier entire environment for everyone. Email your congressional delegations (easily accomplished at congress.org) demanding at least to hold the line on what the 2002 Farm Bill contained.

Go to your group’s web sites for more information.



geez bob, corn is good for wildlife. they eat it, don't they? seems to me that the prez isn't real high on your acceptance list. face it, crop fields do provide some sanctuary for wildlife. additionally, why are you so concerned about waterfowl and upland birds? what about large and small game? hey, land clearing will provide sanctuary and habitat for small game, with windfalls pushed up to the edges of cropland. golly, seems like you are against human progress. too bad.

Ed Cuneo

We need the CRP program because farming today is too clean cut to help animal populations. I was afraid of this scenario when I saw the corn demand skyrocketing. It would be nice to strike a balance between the agricultural need and the wildlife need. Maybe this is an area that our biologists can work hand in hand with the agricultural sector so that both come out winners. In the meantime it is important to let Congress know that this issue is not so cut and dried.


As a farmer and a hunter I have to give Bob Marshall credit for seeing the big picture here. Part of the rationale for selling CRP and other conservation programs when they first started was that it would take acres that were of marginal value as cropland out of production, thereby helping the price of corn, soybeans, etc. and that these marginal acres were much more likely to be environmentally sensitve, so conservation uses would have a much greater impact on these acres than on more productive cropland. It was also implied that if these acres were needed for production agriculture in the future, they would not only be available but be in better shape for having been fallow for a number of years. I think it is time to realize that a percentage of these acres will be lost to CRP, at least for a few years, and to focus on saving those acres and areas that provide the greatest benefit for conservation uses. An all or nothing approach is liley to leave us with nothing.

john r

Look as long as we as a country are not drilling for oil in house and are pushing ethanol the CRP is dead. Politicians, ConAgra, Cargill, ADM, the lucky few with ethanol producing facilities will see that every inch of tillable land will be. As long as we look for answers off market and ignore science, petroleum and uranium are the most energy dense fuel sources available bar none and that means the most efficient, we will not find a solution that will not endanger the CRP. If the public demands more efficient trucks and SUVs suitable engine transmission combination can be developed, we have petroluem resources available and we can get the oil with less eco damage than ethanol will wreck. Yes write you representatives in Washington but demand intelligent action not the latest fad like say carbon off sets and tell them to keep the CRP funded but be reasonable and tell them what you would be willing to cut.


the proposal is not so much to grow corn but some alternative energy crops like willow & switch grass. willow would be harvested every 3 years - this would provide cover for wildlife. switchgrass would be harvested once, probably in the fall to get maximum growth. much of the CRP ground is not suitable for grain crop production anyway, that's why it is in CRP.
I'm a hunter too.


touchy topic,while crp is good for game, corn is good for everything.However its still a good idea to write to your reps to keep the issue in the spotlight.Apathy kills

Bill Hardisty

The problem with the gentleman who thinks the brush is pushed up around the field is that in Iowa it is burned. Thereby leaving no cover for the animals.
With the price of corn and all of Iowa's ethanol plants corn rather than CRP gives a cash return of 3 times what a CRP payment is. Thus water quality, soil erosion, and higher amounts of chemical and nitrogen into the streams and lakes makes the owner more money than any CRP. Sportsmen need to be alarmed about this issue.


The vast majority of land enrolled in CRP here was untilled until CRP program loomed on the political horizon. Then the race was on to till this highly unproductive land so it could then be entered into CRP and draw federal money on it. Now it will probably be drawn out with the help of our congressional delegation (ND). Next a plan must be developed so disaster payments can be made on this worthless ground as it certainly won't produce corn.

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