The American Farm Bureau is defending its request to Secretary Tom Vilsack to plant CRP acres to replace lost grain production in war-torn Ukraine, amid concerns by some it will harm the program.
CRP acres are in the Conservation Reserve Program because they’re environmentally sensitive. Farmers are paid not to farm them for ten-years.
But American Farm Bureau’s Andrew Walmsley and others argue the war in Ukraine demands extra U.S. production, but only on prime farmland, some four million CRP acres. “We need to produce more. And so, what we simply have asked is for them to look, particularly at those prime acres that aren’t environmentally sensitive, that aren’t highly erodible, that could be farmed at some point. We recognize, near term, that might not be possible, with challenges, but, longer term, are those acres more ripe for a program like EQIP or CSP, that are working-lands conservation.” Versus a land retirement program like CRP.
Walmsley was asked about Secretary Vilsack’s take that a decision now is premature. “We’re not trying to pigeon-hole the department; we’re just requesting that they begin with a plan of attack, and looking at flexibilities. Time is of the essence, if we were to do anything in this season, we think that would be very limited, but once again, this is only on prime farmland that’s kind of tied up in CRP. We don’t want to lose the environmental benefits that we see from conservation practices.”
University of Illinois agricultural economist Scott Irwin told Reuters, “This is an emergency, wartime situation,” and “it’s very clear…the world needs acres of corn and wheat this spring.”
Ukraine’s Ag Minister says the war threatens some 17 million acres or half Ukraine’s spring planting region, with access to farms, fuel, fertilizer and ports all in question.