Report: Farm policies fuel grasslands destruction, undermine climate and biodiversity goals
The U.S.’s grasslands are critical habitats for pollinators and birds and hold vast amounts of carbon in their soils. But our agricultural policies — particularly the Renewable Fuel Standard and crop insurance subsidies — are incentivizing the rapid destruction of these ecosystems, the World Wide Fund for Nature said in a report published Monday. (No paywall)
Report: Farmers plowed up 1.8 million acres of grasslands in 2020
U.S. and Canadian farmers plowed up about 1.8 million acres of Great Plains grasslands to plant crops in 2020, according to a report released Tuesday by the World Wildlife Federation. The report also showed that, for the first time since 2016, wheat surpassed corn and soy as the leading crop driving annual grasslands loss across the entirety of the Great Plains, and not just within the northern Great Plains.
Grasslands enrollment in Conservation Reserve reaches 7 million acres
The Agriculture Department said it would enroll more than 3.1 million acres of grasslands — the largest amount ever — in the Conservation Reserve Program this fall, underlining the transformation of the reserve into a working lands program. The CRP was created in 1985 as a cropland retirement program.
Claim: Grazed grasslands trump cover crops on long-term carbon sequestration
In the debate over how to use agricultural lands to sequester carbon and help mitigate climate change, no-till and cover cropping get most of the attention. But studies are starting to show that grazed perennial pastures, where the soil is rarely disturbed and continuously covered, may be the best strategy for locking carbon in the soil long-term, according to experts on a recent Environmental Working Group webinar.
Europe’s butterflies are vanishing along with small farms
Across Europe, butterfly populations are undergoing huge declines, with grassland butterfly abundance dropping by 39 percent between 1990 and 2017. Spain's Catalonia region offers an extreme example of this continent-wide wave of biodiversity loss: Over the past 25 years, populations of the most common grassland species have declined here by 71 percent, reports FERN's latest story, produced with National Geographic. (No paywall)
Farming boom threatens Biden’s climate and conservation goals
High prices for corn and soybeans, coupled with the ethanol mandate and generous crop insurance, are spurring farmers in the Great Plains to plow up native grasslands in favor of commodity crops. The loss of these ancient carbon sinks "poses a conundrum for the Biden administration," which wants to cut agriculture's carbon emissions to net zero and conserve 30 percent of the nation's land in a bid to protect biodiversity.(No paywall)
Conversion of grasslands accelerates in Great Plains
After slowing with the collapse of the commodity boom nearly a decade ago, the conversion of grassland to row crops is accelerating in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, said the World Wildlife Fund.
Grassland enrollment adds 2.5 million acres to Conservation Reserve
The USDA said it accepted offers from landowners to enroll 2.5 million acres under the Grassland option of the Conservation Reserve, double the amount accepted last year. Nearly 45 percent of the new land will enter in two priority zones set by USDA, the Greater Yellowstone Elk Migratory Corridor in the West and the Historical Dust Bowl Region, still at risk of wind erosion, in the central and southern Plains.
Audubon enlists grass-fed meat brand to conserve critical bird habitat
The National Audubon Society today announced a partnership with Perdue-owned Panorama Organic Grass-fed Meats that will add nearly a million acres to its Conservation Ranching Initiative. Audubon has focused recent conservation efforts on privately owned rangelands, where 95 percent of grassland bird species live, and the deal with Panorama boosts the total acreage in its ranching program to 3.5 million.(No paywall)
In Oregon, an effort to build grassland biodiversity while helping ranchers succeed
In eastern Oregon, an experiment is underway to determine whether conservationists and ranchers, two groups often at odds, can work together to stave off development, support ranch economies and preserve biodiversity on the Zumwalt Prairie, America's largest remaining native bunchgrass prairie.(No paywall)
Grassland losses slow, still exceed 2 million acres for fourth year
Roughly 2.1 million acres of grasslands in the Great Plains were converted to cropland in 2018, equal to the loss of four footballs fields of land per minute, said the World Wildlife Fund on Wednesday. At the same time, the Plowprint Report said a nearly equal amount of land was returned to …
USDA accepts 1.2 million acres into grasslands program
The USDA accepted nearly 2 out of every 3 acres that were offered this spring for enrollment into the Conservation Reserve grasslands initiative, 1.2 million acres in all, said the Farm Service Agency on Thursday.
Perdue wants more goods and services from U.S. forests
Citing recent increases in timber sales from the national forests, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told the Forest Service to "identify new opportunities to increase America's energy dominance and reduce reliance on foreign countries for critical minerals." In a memo to the Forest Service chief, Perdue also said livestock grazing should be regarded as an essential part of management of the grasslands that are part of the 193-million-acre National Forest System.
Enrollment drops in Conservation Reserve
The lower rental rates set in the 2018 farm law for the Conservation Reserve may be discouraging enrollment in the program to idle fragile farmland. The USDA said on Thursday that it had accepted for entry 9 of every 10 acres offered in the recently completed "general" signup, for a total of 3.4 million acres — 2 million fewer acres than will leave the reserve this fall.
USDA opens enrollment as Conservation Reserve grows for first time since 2007
The Conservation Reserve signup that opens on Monday could see landowners idle the largest amount of fragile cropland in years, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, although some analysts say lower government payment rates will hold down enrollment in the program.
The biggest U.S. landowners own nearly as many acres as New England states
Billed as "the magazine of the American landowner, The Land Report says the largest 100 landowners in the nation acquired an additional 2 million acres during 2017, an area larger than Delaware. All told, the 100 largest private land holders own 40.2 million acres, equivalent to the land mass of the New England states with Vermont excluded, said the Washington Post.
Great Plains loses 2.5 million acres of grasslands in one year
The annual Plowprint report by the World Wildlife Fund estimates 2.5 million acres of virgin grasslands in the Great Plains were converted to cropland, or energy and urban development last year. While it's a smaller loss than the 3.7 million acres of 2015, the perennial loss of grasslands is a threat to water quality and wildlife habitat in the Plains, which stretch from Texas into the Canadian prairies.
Ecology program has prisoners planting sagebrush
Under a program funded by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), prisoners in six states are planting sagebrush, a plant native to Western grasslands that has been depleted by development and by ranchers' preference for other grasses that make better forage for livestock. Sagebrush provides valuable habitat for big-game and birds, while providing enough shade to keep moisture in the soil.
Landowners surge into grasslands program, USDA aims for more enrollment
USDA has accepted more than 600,000 acres into a Conservation Reserve initiative to preserve grasslands and aims to enroll at least an additional 200,000 acres in a sign-up that ends on Dec. 16. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) says a large part of the land is in states where there is a high risk of grasslands being converted to cropland or development.