CRP Readiness InitiativeBy: Amos S. Eno
In a move that I have been predicting since 2008, federal programs designed to assist with landowner stewardship are now being outsourced to the private sector in new and interesting ways. Appropriately enough, this process is occurring with FSA’s Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, with the aid of a farmer and ecosystem service advocate, Tim Gieseke and regional teams of conservation and educational professionals.
Gieseke is principal of Ag Resource Strategies LLC and has helped to create a new series of free training programs to recruit contractors who can bring new people into the CRP fold. A farmer for the past 15 years, Gieseke works 100 acres of corn and soy and about a dozen feeder cattle. “I farm enough to know what it is,” Tim tells me. “It’s amazing how much food you can produce off 100 acres. I took over the farm from my dad and began various conservation trials. We’ve tried reduced tillage, no till, cover crops and a gamut of BMPs (best management practices). There are challenges in all of them.
“My experience has shown me that with many larger farms of 1000-plus acres, the windows for getting two crops in and off the land are very narrow - there’s not a lot of time to manage resources. It’s a huge effort just to get the soil worked, fertilized and planted. So most farmers won’t change their activities until there’s more value in it to them - there needs to be some economic benefit.”
The Conservation Reserve Program - Ready for Change
That, of course, is one idea behind the venerable Conservation Reserve Program, which originated with the 1985 farm bill, but is rooted in soil conservation efforts stretching back decades earlier.
The CRP Readiness Initiative begins this week with a workshop in Lancaster, PA. A series of 20 workshops, open to anyone, will be held across the country. “Training is open to people with various skill bases. It’s suitable for those with natural resource management or agricultural experience. It also has a mentoring component and a supplemental online component. The overall goal,” says Tim, “is to build capacity for government program delivery into the private sector, local governments or interested NGOs (non-governmental organizations), such as Pheasants Forever.
Learn more about scheduled trainings next week.