Federal Farm Bill program offers benefits to producers, wildlife

Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks federal Farm Bill coordinator Cherrie Nolden reminds agricultural producers that there are fewer than 3,300 acres left in a new allocation of CP33 Conservation Reserve Program contracts designated for counties in eastern Kansas.

“KDWP encourages farmers and producers to sign up for CP33 as soon as possible by visiting a USDA Farm Service Agency office," Nolden says. "Contracts will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis with automatic acceptance of eligible offers. This program plays an important role in providing producers income from low-producing field borders while creating habitat for bobwhite quail, grassland birds, and other wildlife. It makes good economic and conservation sense.”

Producers know that crop yields are lower at field margins, but they may not be aware that these low-yield areas provide an opportunity to benefit wildlife without negatively impacting economic return. A recent study conducted by Mississippi State University showed that if expected corn yield is less than 165 bushels per acre, enrolling 48 feet of field edge in CP33 would be more profitable than cropping that margin. If expected yields were less than 137 bushels per acre, enrollment of up to 120 feet would be economically beneficial. For soybeans yielding less than 37 bushels per acre, buffers as wide as 100 feet would be economically prudent.

This conservation practice -- officially titled "CP 33: Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds" -- provides needed habitat for bobwhite quail, upland birds, reptiles, amphibians, and aquatic species. Many of these species are regionally declining and of conservation concern. The practice must be applied around field edges of eligible cropland and involves planting native warm-season grasses and limited shrubs, if desired.

CP33 has financial incentives to encourage and assist farmers with implementation. Sign-up incentives up to $100 per acre, annual rental payments based on county soil rental rates, cost-share assistance for cover establishment of up to 50 percent of eligible reimbursable practice costs, mid-contract management up to 50 percent of cost, and practice incentive payments up to 40 percent of the eligible establishment cost make it economically feasible, and even profitable, to create wildlife habitat.

Counties that are eligible for sign-up include Washington, Clay, Dickinson, Marion, Butler, Cowley and all other Kansas counties to the east. Eligible producers must have cropped for at least four out of six years from 1996 through 2001, but cropland need not be classified as highly-erodible. Buffers can be from 30-120 feet wide but may not comprise more than 50 percent of a given field.

More information on CP33 is available at local Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service offices, as well as the CP33 fact sheet posted online .

Nolden may be contacted at 620-672-5911.