Despite high commodity prices, a study shows Iowa farmers in several counties developed new wildlife habitat in 2012. Lead researcher Spencer Parkinson says 40 Iowa counties had more land converted to conservation areas instead of plowing it up and planting corn or soybeans.
Parkinson says, “The CRP rental rates in Iowa are actually some of the highest rental rates — if not the highest rental rates — in the country because of the acknowledgment that Iowa has been blessed with very fertile ground.” Parkinson says a dozen or so counties, mostly in southern Iowa, brought land back into production.
That’s because when it was first placed in the federal Conservation Reserve Program in the 1980s, it was required that the entire farm be idled instead of just parcels. “Some of that land is certainly okay to farm,” Parkinson says.
“You drive around Iowa and you see lot of terraces and you see a lot of buffer strips and filter strips and other sorts of things getting installed on land.” He says Illinois and Indiana held steady with acreage used for wildlife habitat and Michigan showed an increase. The survey conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions of Des Moines found that 40 Iowa counties added more land classified as “grassy areas” between 2007 and 2012.
Parkinson says researchers had expected the opposite, thinking that more acres would have been planted to row crops given the recent spike in prices. The study looked at land use in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa.