Offering a 60' field border program through the continuous sign-up Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and allowing farmers to turn on it when they plant and spray would have a number of farmers lining up to enroll in the program, says Gary Kunde.
Kunde farms highly erodible land near Bellevue in hilly northeastern Iowa. He has logged more than a decade as a soil and water district commissioner.
"The only field border program available here is a 15' strip called a ‘pheasant buffer,'” Kunde says. "While it may provide a little pheasant habitat, you can't turn farm equipment on that narrow a strip, so there's really very little incentive for farmers to enroll.
"If you let farmers enroll 60' strips around the edges of erosive fields and use it for a turning area when they plant and spray, it would have great appeal,” he says. "Sure, you would disturb the cover when you turn, but most planting is finished by the time pheasants nest. It's a bit of a compromise between habitat and farming. But the disturbance would be minor in return for the amount of habitat because more farmers would sign up.”
The need for such a program is urgent because many CRP contracts will expire in the next year or two, Kunde adds. "USDA could keep a lot of land in habitat and also reduce soil erosion for a minimal cost if they would offer this kind of field border program when a field comes out of CRP,” he says. "It would also allow for enrolling highly erodible land that is now in production.”
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