With negotiations on the farm bill about to get underway, we’re continuing to hear conversation about a dramatic shift in land use in Iowa as high commodity and land prices are pushing more land into production of corn and soybeans. This is the topic Susan Heathcote discussed in a Des Moines Register op-ed in January.
Here’s Iowa State University Extension Agronomist Paul Kassel talking about the general trend in CRP acres statewide:
“With grain prices and land prices as high as they are now, the economic situation may be causing farmers to return any retiring CRP acres into corn and soybean production.”
And here’s Gary Grave, who runs a farm management and land sale company in the northwest Iowa community of Spencer:
“If CRP is coming out, that will probably go back to corn production, but in our area, where we have good, quality land, we don’t have a lot of CRP,” Grave said. “That’s more so in southern Iowa, where they have hilly soils. They have a lot of CRP down there and a lot of that is coming out and instead of putting it back into CRP, they’re putting it into production because of the great profits.”
These individuals are making good points, and it is reality that farmers will follow economic signals to make their planting decisions. The key question is, what can public policy do to keep conservation practices in the mix under these circumstances? Susan Heathcote offered suggestions in her op-ed and Iowans should discuss a broad range of options to maintain the significant benefits federal farm conservation programs provide to Iowa.
Farm bill negotiations will be getting underway soon in Washington. Stick with us and we’ll give you opportunities to tell your representatives how they can protect conservation results in Iowa.