Pheasants Forever partners with agricultural group for new conservation program
“If you ever look at a yield map, red isn’t the color you want to see,” notes Divan, the Iowa state coordinator for conservation group Pheasants Forever.
But it’s those red acres that Pheasants Forever is targeting for a new precision conservation program in Iowa and Minnesota. It was just funded by the US Department of Agriculture National Conservation Resource Service.
Pheasants is a partner of the program with the Practical Farmers of Iowa, a group of around 5,200 members in Iowa and surrounding states, according to Jorgen Rose, habitat and group policy coordinator.
The objectives of the program include:
- Work with 80 producers (who do not need to be members of the Practical Farmers group).
- Analysis of 25,000 acres of land in Iowa and Minnesota.
- Identify over 3,000 acres where a precision conservation plan on unprofitable land would benefit wildlife habitat and the farmer.
“Existing programs do not provide assistance for the tedious process of using precision conservation to identify acres of opportunity in the first place,” said Pheasants Forever in connection with its grant application to NRCS. USDA announced on Nov. 8 that the Minnesota-Iowa program was one of 18 new projects receiving a portion of $ 25 million under the Conservation Innovation Grants On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials Program. This is a million dollar project of which about three quarters is funded by the federal government.
Minnesota-based Pheasants Forever has a growing number of employees who can use agronomic data to identify conservation opportunities, Divan said.
A unique aspect of the program is that the incentive payments to remove unprofitable acres from agricultural production are not based on the number of “red” acres removed. Instead, the payments are based on improving the average yield of the acres in that field that remain in production. Removing marginal land from production will improve this average yield.
This approach is done, in part, to avoid “stacking” the benefits of the program on the same set of acres, Divan said.
This will allow the use of programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, the Pheasants Forever Soil Health and Habitat Program, or through new private funding. , in these unprofitable areas.
The program is expected to run for five years, with Rose saying the first year will likely involve adding staff and working out some details and logistics for the program.
Rose said the Iowa Practical Farmers and Forever Pheasants have worked together on small-scale projects, this will be the first large-scale cooperative effort. He said the two groups complement each other, with Pheasants Forever being a popular group known for its expertise in conservation, and Practical Farmers providing a good base of conservation-conscious farmers for the program, but it is open to all farmers. from Iowa and Minnesota. .
“There will be a lot of outreach and events to find these people and get them interested,” Rose said.
Rose said the idea of precision farming is generally only applied to getting the most out of the land, not analyzing which acres maybe shouldn’t be cultivated but could provide a benefit to another way.
Divan said Practical Farmers of Iowa “has a long history of farmer-led research.”
“Farmers certainly look to their peers first,” Divan said.