Landowners face conservation decisions

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MPR file photo Dan Gunderson

The Conservation Reserve Program signup period ends April 6th. During the four week signup that ends Friday, landowners can re-enroll their land, or sign up new acres.

Wildlife managers and conservation groups are concerned high crop prices will entice many landowners to let the CRP contracts expire and either farm the land themselves or rent the land for cropping.

Landowners get an annual per acre rental payment for keeping land enrolled in the CRP. In Minnesota USDA data shows the CRP payments range from $23/acre, to $146/acre.

By comparison, the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) shows cropland rents for 2010 (the latest data available) ranged from $35/acre to $168/acre.

In Minnesota, the counties with most enrolled CRP acres are in the northwest.

What’s the bottom line some of those landowners are considering?

The average CRP payment in Marshall county is $44/acre according to USDA.

NASS data 2010 cropland rent in Marshall county averaged $62/acre

Kittson county CRP averages $40/acre. 2010 crop rent: $62/acre

Roseau county CRP averages $36/acre. 2010 crop rent: $35/acre

Pennington CRP averages $41/acre. 2010 crop rent: $43/acre.

Those crop rent numbers are certainly low, since land rent has been steadily rising in Minnesota the past few years.

The decision landowners make will have a significant impact on parts of the Minnesota landscape, because about 292,000 acres of CRP contracts are set to expire later this year unless they are renewed.

Would you keep land in a Conservation Program even if it meant less money in your pocket?

(All data from USDA)

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